Microbiology & overseas aid - IBMSPod Ep.8

Microbiology & overseas aid - IBMSPod Ep.8
11 June 2021
As the profession gets ready to celebrate Biomedical Science Day, June's episode showcases the excellent achievements and inspiring work of three outstanding Biomedical Scientists.

In the month we celebrate Biomedical Science Day, IBMS pod spoke to senior microbiologist and national member of IBMS council Zonya Jeffrey. She tells us all about her 4-year placement on the ground in Tanzania fighting Malaria and HIV. She talks to us about 'Child Aid Tanzania' - a charity she co-founded after she returned. 

The wide-ranging interview also covered unusual outbreaks in her lab in Manchester, her goals on IBMS Council, a World Health Organisation (WHO) project in Sierra Leone and what she did as Science Exhibitor with the BBC. 

Later in a special LabLife, award-winning Husband and Wife Biomedical Scientist duo Akinola and Olubukola Adewunmi join Ella on LabLife. They discuss their projects outside of the lab educating the public about Sickle Cell Disease and encouraging blood donations from BAME communities - for which they won a National BAME Health & Care Award.

Microbiology & overseas aid - with Zonya Jeffrey 

Zonya Jeffrey has a unique role as a senior microbiologist in a busy 24/7 laboratory at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. It involves diagnostic bench work isolating, identifying and antibiotic susceptibility testing of bacteria and parasites, and training and development of students, trainees, and staff.

We asked Zonya to tell us what a typical day looks like before moving on to some of the more unusual days! Including one where she had to stay behind to manage an outbreak in a nursing home. Zonya also addressed Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – i.e. does she come across infections not treatable with regular antibiotics, and if so, how often?

Next, we moved on to her overseas projects working in labs in Tanzania and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that Tanzania accounted for 5% of global deaths from Malaria in 2019 – which is approximately 20,500 deaths. Zonya spent four years in Tanzania as a laboratory technologist and Biomedical Scientist with the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). VSO sent her group to set up a new microbiology laboratory and train and staff in basic tests and techniques.

Hoping to give something back to the community she had been part of, Zonya, her sister and her friend established the charity 'Child Aid Tanzania'. It aims to support mothers & their babies and children in families living in communities affected by HIV/AIDS and Malaria; they provide anti-malaria bed nets and help fund child education. Zonya then told us about a WHO project in Sierra Leone she was involved with to combat Cholera. 

You'd be testing hundreds of slides a day for Malaria. Our thoughts were what can we do to help a community that we lived in for more than four years. The first thing we did was to provide new mosquito bednets for new mothers at hospitals, children and the most vulnerable. We also provide education like fundraising for desks and school uniforms for primary school children.

Zonya also discussed her IBMS council objectives, how the pandemic has impacted her lab in Manchester, work with the BBC, and finally faced our quick-fire round!

LabLife with Akinola and Olubukola Adewunmi 

We catch up with Akin and Olu Adewunmi, husband & wife Biomedical Scientists at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust. The pair recently won the 2021 Health and Wellbeing Advocate award from the National BAME Health & Care Awards for their exceptional work running their charity Path Lab Support, which is dedicated to educating the public about Sickle Cell Disease and encouraging blood donations from BAME communities. They talk to us about the experience and challenges of their charitable work and what it is like to be recognised with a national award.  

I would advise my colleagues, biomedical scientists, to not limit our career skills to the four walls of the laboratory alone. Let's think beyond the box and use our career skills to create social action projects that benefit our communities

Akin & Olu have both also recently published books. Akin's book, Beyond The WorkPlace, guides scientists and others to use their career skills to inspire and create change in their communities. In Olu's book Take Hold Of Your Life, Olu relates her experience as a councillor to give advice for empowering one's self.  

In the spirit of Olu & Akin's work, we would also like to promote that World Blood Donor Day is coming up on 14th June. Visit to find out how to get involved.  

How to listen

To listen to any of our podcasts, series 1 and 2, as well as subscribe to future episodes, visit:

Episode outline

0:20 – IBMS News

2:06 – Feature Interview with Zonya Jeffrey

2:30 - Part 1: Microbiology in Manchester – including an introduction to Zonya and her work, typical day, most memorable outbreaks, training & education and AMR in the lab. 

10:44 – Part 2: Overseas Aid in Tanzania & Sierra Leone - including work alongside Swiss Tropical Institute as Laboratory Technologist, setting-up charity Child Aid Tanzania, discussion of Malaria & HIV situation and possibility for solutions in Tanzania and World Health Organisation Cholera project in Sierra Leone. 

22:28 - Part 3: Impact of the pandemic, Council and BBC  - including IBMS Council goals, the impact of the pandemic on her lab and Science Exhibitor with the BBC. 

28:30 – Quick-fire Round: most important measure to prevent Covid transmission; largest threat to global health aside from Covid-19; the first thing she will do when leaving quarantine hotel.

30:02 – LabLife with Akinola and Olubukola Adewunmi

Links to further resources

IBMS News:

Feature interview with Zonya Jeffrey:

Part 1:

Part 2 

Part 3 

LabLife with Akinola and Olubukola Adewunmi:

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