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Students told to ‘Get out of the labs!‘

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Patricia Aruo
September03/ 2017

Women In Pathology event hosted as women’s month comes to an end.

STUDENTS at a Women in Pathology event were encouraged to spend less time doing laboratory research and more time interacting with the communities that their work is supposed to benefit.

This was one of the suggestions made by Prof Wendy Stevens, the guest speaker of the event held at Wits’ Public Health Building on Wednesday, August 30. It was organised during women’s month by the Wits Students’ Pathology Society to honour the work of women in the field.

Stevens, a researcher at the National Health Laboratory Services and professor of Molecular Medicine and Haematology at Wits, focuses her work on HIV and tuberculosis (TB). She said that it was imperative for pathologists to leave the comfort of their laboratories and interact with the communities as well as implement their research findings.

“If you really want your stuff to make an impact, you must get out there and get involved,” she said. She added that, “we can’t really do this in the isolation of the environment which we work in, while people we are serving are living in a different reality.”

Stevens said that the best way to reduce the spread of diseases such as TB was to increase access to healthcare. She said this could be achieved in various ways including an increase in public health funding and technology. She cited African countries such as Ghana and Malawi where medicine is being delivered to some communities using drone technology.

Nokubekezela Thembeka, a BHSc Honours in Molecular Medicine and Haematology student, said that as a woman hoping to enter this field, it was important for her to know what to expect.
“This field is actually diverse. It’s more than doing research and just being in a laboratory. It is a foundation for providing better healthcare through research and networking with the people that need it.”

Malebogo Mampane, a fifth-year medicine student and vice president of the society, said Stevens was chosen because of her “impressive resume and experience in the field”.
She added that it was necessary to host this event because, “The society firmly believes in the upliftment of women and the promotion of female practitioners.”

The society also launched a mentorship programme that would help students to decide on the career paths and interact with more professionals in the field.

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Patricia Aruo