Lab Matters Winter 2019 | Page 22

GLOBAL HEALTH In Zambia, Lab Mentor Tackles Viral Load Testing By Jade Campbell, intern, Communications Milimo Delhan Hamomba serves as APHL’s senior laboratory mentor for Lusaka Province in Zambia. He works with provincial viral load laboratories to strengthen the sample referral system between satellite facilities, facility hubs and central testing sites. In addition, he helps laboratories to implement quality management systems in line with ISO 15189, attends technical working group meetings, and analyzes and disseminates laboratory data to stakeholders for policy and decision making. Early in his career, Hamomba worked for Ministry of Health at the Livingstone Central Hospital Pathology and Biochemistry Laboratory as a biomedical scientist in charge of the Molecular Biology Section and later as laboratory manager. He then joined Family Health International (FHI360) under Management Sciences for Health MSH where he worked as a senior provincial laboratory technical advisor for Copperbelt and North- Western provinces on Zambia Prevention Care and Treatment, an HIV prevention project. When that project came to a close, he became the laboratory strengthening specialist in Luapula Province for the Eradicate TB Project under USAID/PATH. Hamomba holds a BS in Biomedical Laboratory Sciences/Laboratory Medicine from the University of Zambia and is pursuing a MPH from the University of Lusaka part-time. He has completed the Laboratory Leadership and Management course sponsored by the International Education Center for Health (I-TECH), CDC and the Zambia Ministry of Health at the University of Washington. He has trained in molecular diagnostics, viral load testing, early infant diagnosis, tuberculosis testing, quality management systems and malaria case detection. What are the day to day tasks of a laboratory mentor? My responsibilities are broad. As the onsite laboratory mentor, I assist with viral load and early infant diagnosis management and developing management and technical procedures. I provide training in quality 20 LAB MATTERS Winter 2019 management systems, logistics and supply, distribution of equipment, utilization of lab consumables and other topics as needed. I also support the laboratory information system and map health facilities in the geographical information system. Then there is administrative work for APHL’s Zambia office: reports, feedback on quality improvement projects and meetings with provincial officials and APHL country office staff. Because I am located in Lusaka, I also assist other mentors with laboratory logistics in CDC-supported provinces. Weaknesses What were your expectations for the position? Increasing efficiency of lab operations by achieving maximum outputs with minimal inputs. I enjoy traveling to other laboratories to have a face to face chat with staff and hear their challenges first hand. I also enjoy sharing our successes with stakeholders, particularly our strides in meeting the UNAIDS set targets. I expected the position to require tasks outside my job description as a mentor, problem solving skills and demands to meet organizational goals, objectives and deliverables. I thought it would provide me with tools for personal growth while pushing me to expand my frame of reference to be able to undertake assignments outside my comfort zone. With APHL on board, the laboratories I support have greatly improved performance in viral load and early infant diagnosis. Our strength lies in our fine staff and our weaknesses in administration, management and infrastructure. • Dedicated staff with a positive mindset who are eager to learn and willing to work as a team • Motivation and a strong sense of belonging • Determination to achieve goals and deliverables • Clearly defined individual work plans • Strong performance management to maximize staff efficiency • Infrastructure: most laboratories do not have enough space to work effectively • Inconsistent supply of laboratory reagents and consumables • Poor management and leadership style in some instances What is your favorite part of your job? What attracted you to public health? What are your laboratory’s strengths and weaknesses? Strengths • Challenges with Human Resources I was attracted by the broad perspective of public health which looks at population levels. In my work as a mentor, I find it works best when public health and clinical health are integrated. I was also interested in risk factors and associated outcomes and how to prevent disease when conducting surveillance and research. Lastly, I wanted to improve people’s overall wellness through health promotion activities such as behavior change and reducing exposure to risks. What makes this work meaningful to you? Improving a person’s well-being by providing quality, reliable laboratory results for better case management. Specifically, I can increase the suppression rate and case detection in adults and children living with HIV, allowing them to have meaningful, productive lives and contribute to social, economic and financial development. I also value the opportunity to advance technical efficiency and effectiveness and to measure performance using APHL resources. n PublicHealthLabs @APHL