Tamuning, Guam – During the first surge of COVID-19 cases in Guam last year, the Guam Public Health Laboratory (GPHL) needed assistance to combat the overwhelming number of COVID-19 tests.
To provide additional microbiology technician staffing assistance to the GPHL, PIHOA recruited two Regional Microbiologists and Laboratory Technicians. Ms. Bonita Dydasco and Ms. Evelyn Tomokane joined the GPHL to support Guam’s COVID-19 response and preparedness laboratory-based public health screening and diagnostic testing needs.
"Last year, when COVID-19 cases began to soar in Guam, the GPHL needed additional hands to assist with COVID-19 testing. The timely assistance from PIHOA and collaboration with the GPHL to hire Bonita and Evelyn was a great success in combatting the surge in cases,” said Dr. Vasiti Uluiviti, PIHOA Regional Laboratory Strengthening Coordinator.
Ms. Dydasco joined PIHOA straight out of college, coming from Chaminade University with a Bachelors' degree in biology. Her undergraduate research focused on methods to preserve patient confidentiality through high-resolution melting analysis. Originally from Guam, Ms. Dydasco was very excited to move back home and humbled by this opportunity to serve her community during the pandemic.
“Working as a microbiologist and laboratory technician within the GPHL has been one of the most fulfilling and profoundly rewarding experiences of my short life. Though some days were long and defeating, serving the island through the pandemic has taught me a lot about myself and the projection of my future career. I will continue to work toward a career that allows me to serve the people of the Pacific Islands and honors the mission of PIHOA," added Ms. Dydasco.
Ms. Tomokane joined PIHOA as a laboratory technician with over 15 years of clinical laboratory experience. She served as a laboratory technologist at the Belau National Hospital for ten years until she was promoted to laboratory supervisor, where she served for an additional five years. Originally from Palau, Ms. Tomokane is a graduate of the Nursing and Allied Health Course from Palau Community College and holds a diploma in Medical Science from the Pacific Paramedical Centre of Wellington, New Zealand.
“My experience at the GPHL provided me an opportunity to conduct community outreach mass testing and training health care providers, nurses, and law enforcement agencies how to collect and test Covid- 19 samples. Being out in the community like that and not just in the lab gave me the frontline experience to better serve the island of Guam,” said Ms. Tomokane.
Ms. Dydasco and Ms. Tomokanes' contributions to the COVID-19 response in Guam and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs) were instrumental with emergency resourcing of critical need personnel at the height of the pandemic. They provided additional microbiology technician staffing assistance to support Guam and the USAPI COVID-19 testing at the GPHL. They also enhanced COVID-19 laboratory-based surveillance and other infectious disease surveillance, infection prevention, and control practices.
“Evelyn and Bonita did a great job! Photos of their work speak a thousand words. Thank you, PIHOA, for a quick response on GPHL's request for help on the shortage of technical staff during the pandemic,” said Alan Mallari, GPHL Senior Technologist and Supervisor for Molecular Testing.