Tanya Constantino shares what it’s like to work in Ethiopia with Doctors Without Borders 

Tanya began her career in laboratory medicine as a foundation year student in the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science after a strong recommendation from a Griffith University lecturer.  

“I chose Medical Laboratory Science because I always had a high regard for the health professionals that worked behind closed doors in labs – not a lot of people know about them, but they play a key role in diagnosis of disease,” she says.  

“At the time it was a new degree and the Program Director, Dr Indu Singh, was so passionate when I had an appointment with her to ask more about the program. I’d previously completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, so I have both degrees as the foundation for my current role.” 

Tanya is a Laboratory Manager for Médecins Sans Frontières (otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders), working in Ethiopia in a role she took up in December 2019. She has previously taken her role internationally with a role as a medical scientist in Myanmar in 2018.  

“I never could have dreamed that my studies would lead me to be working for an international NGO in regional Ethiopia – I didn’t think such a degree would allow me international experience, but I’m pleased that’s turned out not to be true!” says Tanya. 

“Curiosity drove me into this degree and this career, and it’s a pleasure to be able to question things and find unique solutions.  

“Currently, I’m contributing to the overall laboratory operations in Ethiopia, including supporting the response to COVID-19, by defining and updating laboratory processes quality management systems, improving compliance with hygiene and laboratory safety protocols, and training laboratory personnel.  

“It’s easy to be motivated to do more knowing I’m helping people and making an impact on lives, whether that be a community or one individual.”  

Tanya says her advice for students considering a career in medical laboratory science is simple: actively seek to build your work experience while studying. 

“Building knowledge and experience is key and will open opportunities to find a career path and expand your professional network,” she says.  

“I was actively applying for casual jobs in anything health related during my studies, be it a lab assistant, specimen collector, specimen reception, research assistant, pharmacy assistant, dental assistant, medical receptionist…  in the end I found casual roles as a lab assistant which complimented my studies.  

“I talked to my lecturers at the time about their research and possibility of volunteering my time in their labs. Additionally, I also applied and participated in activities the university provided such the various mentoring programs and student representative positions.  

“It seems like a lot on top of your university studies, but I look back on such experiences and believe it has all contributed to develop the career path I am on today. 

While she has a firm plan now, Tanya says that when she first started studying, she wasn’t sure on her end goal and didn’t have a specific career in mind.  

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in healthcare, but I wasn’t sure exactly what role that was,” she says. 

“I’ve worked as a laboratory assistant and manager in various pathology centres and high schools. I’ve worked for the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, I’ve been a molecular scientist at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and in 2016 when I was working for the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services I was doing work in response to the Zika virus pandemic.  

“It’s a varied career and that’s what keeps me so engaged – it’s a healthcare job where I can constantly learn and refine my skills. 

“In terms of what might be next on the horizon for me, with the current climate of the world and emerging infectious diseases, I have goals to continue to work in international development and humanitarian aid in improving and strengthening healthcare for vulnerable populations.” 

If like Tanya, you’re looking for a diverse career that can lead to a range of different job roles, find out more about the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science or the Bachelor of Biomedical Science