The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected millions and millions of people worldwide, but it did allow for the rapid need to bring more people into the health and medical field and provided organizations with the opportunity to create more jobs out of necessity, including Strato Labs.
“That’s what led to me getting my first Lab Tech job. Health-wise, the world was in a really bad place, but it led to the need to perform more research at a rapid pace and that allowed more people to find ways to develop new techniques and learn more about the virus and we were able to take that knowledge and bring it out quickly to the public,” says Drashti Patel.
Patel is a Laboratory Technician at Strato Labs on Main Street in North Bay.
“When I first joined Strato Labs, I was involved mostly with COVID-19 testing for the film production companies in North Bay. I would draw samples, prep them, and deliver same-day results.”
Patel says to be able to help out a budding industry in North Bay has felt like a tremendous accomplishment.
“It’s a lot of fun to see all the productions around town. I never saw stuff like this back home,” she says.
“It may not always be Christmas time in real life, but to see them making Christmas movies year-round downtown is a lot of fun and you get to watch them on tv and know exactly where those scenes were shot and who was there. It is fascinating to watch it all take place.”
Back home for Patel is India where, as a child, Patel wanted to have a career in the medical field.
“I had always wanted to be a doctor, but things don’t always turn out the way you originally planned and you have to decide what the best path for you is going to be,” she says.
“I have my Bachelor of Science Degree in Biotechnology from Sardar Patel University in India. I know a lot of times your degree in one country might not equal that of the educational standard in Canada, but I was lucky where my three-year degree was the equivalent to a four-year degree here in Canada.”
Patel arrived in Canada in 2018 and enrolled at Canadore College.
“I was looking at a number of different programs after university and Canadore had the one that most interested me. Originally, it was paired with another program but they didn’t have enough students enrolled and so they closed it. It was a bit concerning for me, but I was able to switch,” she says, taking the two-year Biotechnology Technician program and earning that diploma.
“Following that I worked at a number of different places, including as a Lab Technician elsewhere. There weren’t that many job openings in this field around North Bay though, outside of medical lab tech, so when Strato Labs opened up, it opened a new opportunity for me to pursue something right in my field of education. I applied, went through the interview process and when I was successful with getting the job, I was very proud,” says Patel.
Patel has now moved into a role in research and development within Strato Labs.
“Right now, we are developing a project to introduce a non-invasive technique to diagnose endometriosis,” says Patel.
Endometriosis is a disease where cells that are normally inside a woman's uterus, are found growing outside, often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and tissue around the uterus. This leads to pelvic pain, heavy periods, and infertility.
“Over the years we have seen a lot of issues with woman’s reproductive systems where women are suffering with this or other fertility issues,” says Patel.
“The thing about endometriosis is that just to protect themselves and even find out they have it, a woman would have to go through surgery which poses some risk.”
Patel says they are hoping to eliminate that risk.
“We are working on making a molecular test which would make it easier for women to confirm whether or not they have endometriosis and that way the treatment can be readily available, instead of someone waiting for years just to confirm whether they have it.”
Patel adds it would be a major breakthrough if they got positive results.
“So far there have been very few places that have pursued this, we are hoping to be able to advance this project forward to new levels.”
Patel says that’s one of the great things that people can do when they pursue a career in this field.
“I would completely recommend this as a great career choice. Not a lot of people know about biotechnology, but I think that it is a vast field that has lots of options for people to explore. What I did was convert that knowledge from my biotech educational background and turned that into a specialized stream in health care,” she says.
“You can take biotech and go into agriculture or go into microbiology, there are a lot of options.”
And while not many of those options may have first been in North Bay, she says Strato Labs offered the opportunity she was looking for.
“I’ve been in North Bay since I arrived in Canada. I didn’t think I would stay in North Bay, but this city has given me some great opportunities and I love it here, so I’m happy it has worked out. Especially when you consider the field of biotechnology and research, there aren’t a lot of opportunities here for that but when Strato Labs opened up, a new door was opened where we could come in and learn in a fresh new environment.”
She adds locally, Strato Labs are hoping to expand what it can offer to the public.
“If we do get the demand from the public, Strato Labs could bring more of its services here. I’m hoping more people find out about those, like food sensitivity and hair cortisol levels, and if you’re interested you can contact us,” says Patel.
“If we do get a lot of demand for those services, instead of the samples being sent down south, we can hopefully start providing those tests here in North Bay.”
If you have an idea for the “Jobs of the Future” series. Send Matt an email at [email protected]