As a Laboratory Technologist, Leah performs laboratory tests and procedures to diagnose and treat illnesses and monitor the health of patients. Another uncommon career with a biology background;
Hi Leah, it is wonderful to catch up again. It has been a long time since we last spoke! I want to thank you for accepting to share your STEM journey with us
Hi, Winnie! I know right; it has been a long time! Hope you are doing great! You were one of the people who inspired me to go back for my Master’s when I was still an undergraduate student. It was just a dream then, but God made it possible. And yes, thank you for inviting me to share my story.
What! I didn’t know! Wow! I am very honored! Thanks for saying that to me.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell our audience a little bit about yourself?
My name is Leah Naluwagga Baliruno from Uganda. I am a Laboratory Technologist; working at the Department of National Health Laboratory and Diagnostic Services, under the Ministry of Health in Uganda. As part of my job, I analyze samples of blood, urine, and other bodily fluids, and use specialized equipment and techniques to process these samples. I also interpret test results, maintain laboratory equipment, and keep accurate records of test results. My job as a laboratory technologist is critical in helping healthcare providers make informed decisions about patient care.
Give us a brief history of how you ended up as a Laboratory Technologist. Did you know about this career as a child?
Growing up, my parents’ dream was for me to become a medical doctor; it almost seemed like the path I would eventually take until my HSC in Gayaza High School. It is there I realized I was more comfortable in the laboratory than anywhere else. I enjoyed the experiments but knew very little about the courses I could pursue in that line. Thankfully I had an OG who was a year ahead of me and was pursuing a degree in Biomedical Laboratory Technology. She was of good help during my S.6 vacation.
So when my results came out I was admitted to study that course. What intrigued me is that we were studying at vet school, not med school! We learned laboratory science in the diverse context of the medical, vet, agricultural, food, and environmental laboratory. This unique exposure helped me become well-rounded and appreciate my profession.
Right out of school, I volunteered at the Vector Control Division, Ministry of Health. I then worked briefly at Aga Khan Health Service Centres in Kampala before joining Central Public Health Laboratories, Ministry of Health now the Department of National Health Laboratory and Diagnostic Services, Ministry of Health Uganda.
What are some of the challenges have you faced as a female Laboratory Technologist?
I have faced numerous challenges, but the one that stands out for me is that I have had impostor syndrome for the longest time. This affected the way I viewed myself in many aspects including work.
How have you been able to overcome this challenge?
God; honestly speaking. Through Him, I know who I am. Knowing that He is there for me, guiding me in everything I do sweeps every feeling of self-doubt under the rug. I have also intentionally surrounded myself with people who believe in me and support my aspirations.
Let’s talk about some of the prestigious moments on your career journey as a Laboratory Technologist
By the grace of God, I was able to graduate with a Master of Science in International Infectious Disease Management in 2021. I am also currently a part of the inaugural Public Health Fellows cohort specializing in Laboratory Leadership. This program is implemented by the Ministry of Health (MoH) Uganda in partnership with Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC).
Who is Leah outside of work?
Outside of work, you will find me reading a good book or watching a documentary. I am also a music lover; I play the recorder, acoustic guitar, and keyboard for worship. Additionally, whenever I get the chance I love to attend a great music concert.
What’s your favorite quote?
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still” ~ Corrie Ten Boom
What is your word of encouragement for a young girl who is interested in becoming a Laboratory Technologist?
Incidentally, during my long school vacations under the Oasis International Charity Organisation, I mentored and tutored female high school students from underprivileged backgrounds in Physics, Chemistry Biology, and Maths; as part of an after-school and holiday program aimed at empowering vulnerable girls in the community as well as encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM fields.
Drawing from that experience, my advice for girls is to identify a mentor; someone who is where they aspire to be and is also willing to mentor them. This is crucial because as women of color the path to success is not often defined and many of us are usually first-generation female graduates or post-graduates in our families. Without a mentor, it can be a very lonely and difficult journey.
Leah, you are our very first Laboratory Technologist. Thank you for accepting to share your journey with us. We have learned something and look forward to hearing more about your success.