Bridgit’s calling – Supporting laboratory testing for improved biosecurity
“Women who stand firm despite the challenges are some of the women we see proudly breaking barriers and changing mindsets,” says Bridgit Fabila Kavana, a senior scientist with the National Animal Health & Food Testing Laboratory (NAHFTL) under the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA).
Bridgit is one of six females working in this critical unit of PNG’s national biosecurity network. As a senior scientist, Bridgit is overseeing the parasitology laboratory which conducts diagnostic tests for mosquito-borne viruses and diseases in humans and animals such as African Swine Fever (ASF).
Bridgit’s work helps to safeguard PNG from exotic pests and animal diseases as well as threats to public health. With over 14 years of experience, Bridgit describes her work as a “God-given calling.”
“Subconsciously, parasites have always intrigued and interested me. I didn’t intend for this to be my career; however, I believe this has been God’s calling on my life.
“There are many cultural forces which discourage females from entering this career path. But by nature, women can collaborate, empathise, organise, communicate and give attention to detail which can bring additional value to this field on top of what our male counterparts have established,” she shared.
Bridgit joined NAHFTL under NAQIA after graduating from the University of Natural Resources, previously known as the Vudal University in East New Britain.
Her expertise in the biosecurity field has been developed through professional experience and training, exploring areas within and external to her interest in parasitology.
She is currently on secondment to the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) to carry out real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and to assist with malaria and COVID-19 samples. This will help enable NAHFTL to set up its own molecular testing capacity for ASF.
The Governments of Australia and New Zealand continue to provide support and training for NAHFTL through the Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access Plus Program, Australia Centre for Disease Preparedness, Burnett Institute and the PNGIMR.
The ongoing partnerships allow the lab to undertake chemical testing with private businesses, government, non-government organisations and the public, including testing of water (for human and animal consumption), analysis of food and food production (for human and animal consumption) and testing of fish and fish products.
These testing processes help ensure the safe production of food and compliance with international market requirements that enable trade. They also help NAQIA and NAHFTL to protect pig populations from ASF, helping to maintain social cohesion and livelihoods in PNG.