TB Specialist Drives Improved Lab Standards in Ukraine

Bacteriologist Maryna Kulyk performs diagnostic tests for TB.
Bacteriologist Maryna Kulyk performs diagnostic tests for TB.
Enforcing quality assurance in labs helps to stem epidemic
“We’ve gained confidence in the way that we perform routine practices, and we are better able to provide high quality services to our patients.”

Tuberculosis can be a difficult disease to diagnose, and undiagnosed and untreated cases can worsen Ukraine’s TB epidemic. But a young laboratory specialist has recently helped improve TB detection rates in Zaporizhzhia oblast.

Maryna Kulyk, a laboratory specialist at the Zaporizhzhia Regional TB Dispensary, was first introduced to the USAID Strengthening Tuberculosis Control in Ukraine Project at a seminar on reliability and accuracy of laboratory diagnostics in February 2013. The project trains laboratory specialists to improve the effectiveness of the TB laboratory network in USAID-supported regions.

One of the project's primary goals is full implementation of the quality assurance system for laboratory testing, a World Health Organization-recommended standard, which guarantees accuracy and reliability of TB diagnostics. 

At the seminar, Kulyk’s commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the regional laboratory network, as well as her holistic approach to these challenges, quickly garnered the attention of USAID experts. Kulyk provided a thorough presentation on existing data on TB detection in Zaporizhzhia, with a well-grounded analysis of detection obstacles and realistic ways to address them.

"The project has been a great source of support to me in my work. I am now better able to advise my colleagues, who are sharing their newly gained expertise on high-quality laboratory network operations in other regions," said Kulyk. "By increasing our knowledge, we’ve gained confidence in the way that we perform routine practices, and we are better able to provide high-quality services to our patients.”

In its pilot oblasts, USAID initiated and organized regional monitoring teams, which include local TB doctors and laboratory specialists, and USAID experts. Kulyk was invited to participate with the Zaporizhzhia team, which helped her visit the most problematic laboratories in her area and analyze their work.

She noticed that some laboratories in Zaporizhzhia did not complete all external quality assurance procedures, and two laboratories were not implementing the procedures at all.

Dissatisfied with the situation, Kulyk organized multiple training sessions for regional laboratory specialists. In spring 2013, she visited every laboratory in her county to provide on-the-job training on laboratory techniques and quality assurance procedures. She also organized repeat procedures for those laboratories that did not pass initial quality assurance tests.

“Working with an international technical assistance project has been a very positive experience,” said Kulyk. “I will make every effort to ensure that all laboratories in my oblast successfully pass external quality assurance tests.”

Efforts by people like Kulyk have improved the reliability of TB laboratory testing in Ukraine and provided a critical benefit to individuals who rely on accuracy in the results. The Strengthening Tuberculosis Control in Ukraine Project runs from April 2012 through April 2017.