Histology in Uganda: Saving the Mountain Gorilla

NSH member, Linda Cherepow, was looking for a job in the histology field, when she got a call from a former employer with an exciting but daunting proposal; come with me to Uganda to start a histology lab. The pros outweighed the cons and Linda quickly found herself en route to Uganda, where she would spend the next year and a half setting up a histology lab at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Despite the extremely rewarding nature of the project, it was not without its challenges. Leaks, dust, power outages, even things we take for granted here in the states, like getting replacement products sent when needed, made set-up that much harder. After a lot of cleaning, and the training of her new techs, however, the lab was successfully up and running.

While in Uganda, Linda was able to get in contact with a few former colleagues affiliated with the organization, Gorilla Doctors. The Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the mountain and Grauer’s species of gorillas that inhabit Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because of the gorillas’ endangered status, the organization’s veterinary team monitors the health of the remaining gorillas and assists in the event of injury or illness.

While the Doctors have seen much success, Uganda presents its own set of challenges for these veterinarians who lack the efficient transportation needed to transport samples; samples that hold the key to diagnosis for these gorilla patients. With added time needed to process and read the samples, it was taking months for the Gorilla Doctors to get their results. After getting in contact with Linda, they began sending her blocks that she was able to re-embed, re-cut, and stain to improve the turnaround time in the lab.

Linda was no stranger to zoological histology at the start of this project. She has a degree in wildlife/forestry and was previously employed at the Bronx Zoo and a few veterinary schools. She now owns an international histology consulting business. Listen to her recent podcast episode to hear more about her Uganda project.

Linda was the 2018 recipient of the Newcomer Helping Hand Award, which is presented every year to a histologist with an outreach project in need of funds. If you have a histology project that would benefit a community or country in need, you can apply for this award on the NSH website! The deadline for 2019 applications is May 31st.

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