Michael Wiggins talks about his passion for pathology

While studying biomedical science at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Michael Wiggins never thought he would find himself following a career in pathology.

“I always loved science; I was a really nerdy kid. While I was fascinated by the human body and health, I didn’t know about pathology. My degree was more research-based, however research didn’t interest me.”

But that all changed quickly for Michael, “we had one lecture in 3rd year about pathology, and it clicked: this is what I have wanted to do all along.”

After having a lecturer explain the science to him further, Michael enrolled into a TAFE course specific to pathology.

Today, Michael works in Frankston. He is a Blood Bank Senior Scientist.


A passion for the blood bank

When asked about his career, he says “this is what I love, being in the front-line.

“Even when I was studying, the blood bank interested me the most. I loved the critical thinking and investigative side of it.

“I love taking all day to find an answer and bouncing my ideas off others. The penny-drop moment is an amazing feeling!

“From the time I walk into the lab at 7am, I am training people, assisting staff with complicated work, speaking to my manager, to the hospital staff. It’s full-on!” says Michael.


Unusual diagnoses and memorable cases

Throughout his career, Michael had some memorable experiences, despite rarely meeting patients himself.

One unusual diagnosis during his career was passenger lymphocyte syndrome after a liver transplant on a patient.

Passenger lymphocyte syndrome is when lymphocytes from donor blood form new antibodies; normally donor blood is not able to form antibodies. This may also happen after bone marrow transplants.

Michael also tells us he frequently identifies rare and exciting antibodies in blood samples from patients from the area, “there must be something in the water in Frankston!”.


The invisible side of healthcare

Michael has experienced the lack of public awareness of pathology firsthand, in particular friends and other people not really understanding what he does for work.

“We are an ignored science, and it’s not always glamorous, but we’re still an incredibly vital part of healthcare.

“Usually when I tell people I am a scientist, they ask what I’m researching. I then say that I work in pathology, and they think I collect blood,” says Michael.


Looking ahead: the future of pathology

Having worked in pathology for as long as he has, Michael has some sage advice for those in training.

“I tell people who I am training to be passionate and enthusiastic. And that they should constantly be learning. I would tell them to always remember that there is a patient at the end of every sample. They may not know us or what we did, but everything we do helps the patient somehow.

“Although I am a Senior Scientist, I am still learning every day and I love it,” Michael says.