We’re honoured to bring you the story of Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino and her work as a medical research scientist. Between finding a cure for disease, writing reports, public speaking and running a family, Tu’uhevaha took time to talk to us about her journey and the challenges and highlights she’s experienced along the way. (Story by Talanoa Intern, Ilisapesi Muliaina).
Tell us a bit about yourself, the work that you do, and how you came to follow that career path?
I’m a medical research scientist, currently working in the field of obstetrics, or pregnancy research. I’m part of a team who are passionate about finding new treatments for diseases of pregnancy. Currently our main focus is the disease preeclampsia, however we also are interested in finding new cures for intrauterine growth restriction (when a baby doesn’t grow properly during pregnancy) and ectopic pregnancy (where an embryo implants in a place outside of the womb).
I’ve always had an interest in science, however dreamed of studying Medicine at University. When that didn’t work out, I had to consider other options – that led me to science. After studying for my undergraduate degree, I soon fell in love with medical research and haven’t looked back!
What have been the biggest challenges in your line of work?
The biggest challenge by far is maintaining research funding. As medical research scientists, we rely on funding from the government and philanthropic organisations so that we can pay for the research we do. Funding within Australia has remained static, which means the success rate has dropped dramatically and is expected to be around 10% in 2015. Basically this means that 9 out of 10 research projects will not be funded.
How many hours a week do you put into your work and research?
I’m in the office for the usual 40 hours a week, however my work doesn’t finish when I leave the office and lab. Most nights and weekends I put in extra hours working on funding applications, writing up data for publication, preparing presentations or planning the next week of work… but that’s life as a scientist – thankfully I have a supportive family who understand the expectations of this job!
How many years of study did you have to complete prior to becoming a scientist?
I’ve done 7 and a half years of University. My Bachelor of Biomedical Science took 3 years, followed by a 1 year honours degree. I then completed my PhD in 3 and a half years.
What motivates you to push forward with all that you do?
My motivation is the end goal of finding a treatment or cure for the serious diseases of pregnancy that we work on. If we are successful in this quest, we could change the lives of pregnant women all over the world – with this goal, it is very easy to go in to work each day!
What advice do you have for young Pacific people who might be thinking of doing the same thing?
Whether the goal is medical research or another field, my advice to the next generation of Pacific people is to work hard and never give up. It sounds cliché, but when one door closes, another will open. I had my heart set on a career in Medicine, but that didn’t work out – and I’m pretty happy it didn’t because now I’m in a job I love, working with an amazing group of people – I couldn’t be happier! Also, I think it is important to remember that you can have it all – a successful career doesn’t mean you can’t also be a great parent or husband or wife. Anything is possible.
We’d like to thank Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino for sharing her story with us, and we wish her all the very best. We’re excited to see what the future holds for her and we know it’s just a matter of time before her hard work makes a break in the scientific field of medicine.