Dr. Chanthala Souksakone received an Australia Awards Scholarship to study a Masters of Primary Health Care at Flinders University in 2003 and today is the Director, Lao Red Cross, National Blood Transfusion Center
Tell us a bit about your background?
“I come from Bolikhamsai Province. After completing high school I came to study in Vientiane at the University of Health Sciences, majoring in the diploma of medical doctor. I then worked as a doctor at the National Blood Transfusion Center at the Lao Red Cross. During that time, I saw an advertisement for the Australia Awards Scholarship in the newspaper. So, I started to learn English more and applied for the Scholarship and was selected to study in 2001. I attended the English preparation course at Vientiane College for one year and went to study at Flinders University, majoring in Primary Health Care, which I completed in 2003. Then, I came back to work at the National Blood Transfusion Center as Head of Division and Deputy Director, and now I am a director of the center.”
What is your role at the Lao Red Cross?
The National Blood Transfusion Center is responsible for promoting and encouraging Lao people to donate blood and providing safe blood for those who need it, such as patients in hospitals. The center is also responsible for the management of blood centers in seventeen provinces and blood banks in thirty-two districts, so as a director of the center, we are responsible for ensuring the quality of blood meets the standard and transferring our knowledge and skills, both in theory and in lab practice, to the students who are studying medical doctors in bachelor’s degrees and researchers in master’s degrees at the University of Health Sciences. Furthermore, we are working on safety blood transfusion research and have cooperated with many blood research institutes, such as the Institut Pasteur du Laos, the Meyer Institute, and institutes from Japan, China, and Australia.
How did your education in Australia prepare you for this role?
After I graduated in Laos, I chose to continue my studies in the same subject in Australia. The study in Australia helped me to gain new vision, knowledge, and skills because, in addition to the course at Flinders University, I also had the opportunity to learn about safe blood transfusion at Adele Blood Transfusion Center. I learned the theory from Flinders and practiced skills from my apprenticeship at the Adele Blood Transfusion Center. When I came back to work, I could apply those knowledge and skills to develop the blood transfusion program in Laos, which is my main responsibility.
Today is World Blood Donor Day. Why is it important for Lao people to donate blood?
June 14 of every year is World Blood Donor Day. The purpose of this day is to express gratitude to blood donors who have a generous spirit and do not want anything in return to save other people’s lives, as well as to show society the positive impact of blood donation. Blood donation is crucial because we cannot produce blood from factories or labs, so we can only get blood from people. We encourage healthy people to donate their blood because each day the need for blood is still high and we cannot meet the needs. We invite all Lao people, both men and women, who are healthy and aged over 17 years old to donate blood – your donation could help save lives!