Champions for Children: Meet Laboratory Services Director Dr Helen

Not all of our #ChampionsforChildren work directly with patients however the work that they do is vital to the health of our patients and community. This week we sat down with Dr Helen Savoia, Director of Laboratory Services to find out why she wanted to study medicine and what she would say to anyone wanting to study science. 

Today also marks International Day of Women and Girls in Science with the theme Women Scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, since the beginning of the pandemic our Laboratory Services team has conducted more than 50,000 COVID-19 swabs. However, what you may not know is the important work they do outside of a pandemic. With a team made up of mostly women, they also performs all pathology tests for RCH in-patients and out-patients, for The Royal Women’s Hospital inpatients and out-patients and specialised tests referred from around Australia as well as servicing local referring specialists.

How did you end up in this field?

From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a doctor and I loved everything about science and nature. As I began to study medicine, I wanted to better understand disease. Pathology is the scientific discipline that really looks at disease and asks what, why and how. It is at the centre of many diagnoses.

What do you enjoy most about it?

I enjoy the physical part of pathology, being able to look at blood cells down the microscope or results of various tests, using them all as clues to find out why someone is feeling unwell.

What would you say to any female wanting to study science? 

My experience is diagnostic pathology has always been a good one. Many of my teachers and leaders were women. Scientific thinking, the ability to ask a question, design an experiment to answer the question, and analyse information critically are fundamental to our future. Any exposure to science is a good thing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved challenging for all, particularly for Laboratories. What did last year teach you and what are you most proud of?

Last year brought out the resilience and dedication of our entire team, they were adaptable in responding to the challenges of the pandemic, while continuing to work really hard and respond rapidly to changing needs. I am really proud that we were able to keep our staff safe and that we were able to rapidly implement Covid testing for diagnosis, meeting the needs of our hospital but also supporting many research projects

What’s the most interesting part of your job/what do people not realise you do in your department?

Our departments and the skills of our medical, scientific and collection team are really diverse. Most people know about the common pathology tests but they probably don’t realise that we also look do things like; looking for very low levels of leukaemia in children having treatment to guide their management; collect and manipulate cells used for transplants, support several hundred research projects across our campus each year. Many of us also provide clinical care. My own area is the care of women with blood problems during pregnancy, especially focussing on blood diseases affecting unborn babies.

One comment for “Champions for Children: Meet Laboratory Services Director Dr Helen”

  1. Lena Savoia

    I’m very proud of my daughter, Helen. I remember her fascination as a youngster watching me cleaning chickens at the kitchen bench and asking about each part of the innards. That fascination has developed into such a meaningful contribution to our community. Love, Mum.


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