University of Otago MELS 410 Medical Laboratory Science for Rural Health

Rural recruitment has always been part of the challenge of running a laboratory service across the Southern region for SCL.

For example, in mid-2018, SCL Dunstan advertised widely for a full time laboratory worker. There were no suitable NZ educated applicants and so a Philippine qualified Technician, who had been working in Qatar, was appointed and assisted to obtain a suitable work Visa. This experience reflects the difficulties obtaining suitable staff in other rural sites.

Ngaire Adams had taught Cytogenetics to University of Otago Medical Laboratory Science (MELS) students and was aware that there were often around 30 students per year– yet rural laboratories rarely saw applications from this group.

Ngaire subsequently requested the introduction of a rural component to be added to the Otago MELS course. Over the pursuing 12-18 months A/Prof Heather Brooks and her team, in conjunction with Ngaire and her lab, worked hard to develop a Rural MELS Course – in time to offer 4th year students a rural placement in 2020. This was ground-breaking and is the first in NZ.

There are currently 3 students on rural placements (Oamaru, Hutt and Dunstan), with the Dunstan student already appointed to a permanent position. Dunstan are confident the small lab multi-disciplinary environment will provide him with a solid base for his future career.

If not for Ngaire’s passion for laboratory science and sharing her knowledge through her teaching it is unlikely this course would exist today. Ngaire finishes her career with SCL in Dunstan next week and this, amongst other things, is a great legacy to have left for the future.

Ngaire Adams (LM Dunstan) and Tylo Murphy (4th Year Rural MELS placement student)

With a twenty-year history of practicing Medical Microbiology, Oamaru’s Laboratory Manager, David Nutbean’s passion for teaching and development within the core laboratory environment has been put to good use in this collaboration with the University of Otago’s Medical Laboratory Science for Rural Health programme.

As a team, it has been Oamaru’s pleasure to be involved in this inaugural placement, and following the exemplary approach made by its first student, the laboratory looks forward to hosting more.

The introduction of the Rural Health specialism will be a valuable and rewarding avenue for both aspiring scientists and rural laboratories, who have long struggled to recruit staff.

Further, it is an honour and a privilege to continue in the collaboration with the University of Otago in the endeavour to promote rural laboratory science.

David Nutbean (LM Oamaru) and Daria Batyaeva (4th Year Rural MELS placement student)