Laboratory Advisor, South Africa

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa

MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, or to people that are excluded from access to health care. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Duration: One year renewable (full time)

Start date: 1 December  2015

Location:  Cape Town office

Reports to: Medical Unit Director and Lab Advisor Focal Point in Brussels

Closing date: 22 September 2015

Southern Africa Medical Unit (SAMU)

SAMU is a decentralized unit of the Medical Department of MSF Operational Centre Brussels (OCB) and is the medical division of MSF South Africa. It provides technical and implementation support to the various MSF HIV/TB Integrated missions via training, operational research and epidemiology, and medical technical support, focusing on innovative ideas and technologies that are feasible to implement in resource-limited settings.

Place in the organisation

The position of Laboratory Advisor will be based in Cape Town within the SAMU team. The content of the work (objectives and priorities) will be set and implemented together with the SAMU team with technical support from the Lab Advisor Focal Point in MSF Headquarters (Brussels). As such, the lab specialist will work in close collaboration with and functional accountable to the Lab Advisor Focal Point in MSF Headquarters. There will be close collaboration with the MSF Laboratory Working Group (LWG), the international Access Campaign and MSF Supply, among others. Overall supervision and hierarchical accountability will be to the HIV/TB coordinator in SAMU.

Objectives of the position

Under the overall guidance of the Lab Advisor Focal Point in Brussels, the SAMU Lab Advisor is responsible for oversight of all technical laboratory aspects across MSF projects. Specifically he/she will lead, supervise and coordinate routine activities, and provide strategic direction and technical support for the development and provision of laboratory services, with a focus on ensuring high-quality standards.

Key Tasks and Responsibilities

The Lab Advisor is responsible to provide technical support and advice to the field projects by:

  • Undertaking regular programme support visits
  • Maintaining regular contact with projects and national laboratory supervisors
  • Follow up on field visit recommendations
  • Perform assessment of field laboratories on request of missions
  • Assessing the feasibility of (new) diagnostic tools suitable for field implementation
  • Providing coaching to expatriate and national laboratory staff
  • Supervising the laboratory specialist based in SAMU
  • Supporting MSF training activities in the laboratory field
  • Facilitate and validate local procurement of laboratory reagents, consumables and equipment according to specifications defined by MSF Headquarters.
  • Support requests for ad hoc maintenance and repair of equipment
  • Participating in recruitment of laboratory staff

The Lab Advisor is responsible to provide operational research support by:

  • Liaising with SAMU Medical Epidemiologist and field epidemiologists
  • Developing concept notes and protocols
  • Providing technical input to protocols, SOPs, and databases
  • Preparing abstracts and posters for conferences and congresses
  • Monitor progress of field laboratory studies
  • Preparing manuscripts suitable for publication
  • Doing oral presentations at conferences and congresses

The Lab Advisor is responsible to coordinate and keep up-to-date the laboratory dossier on “new tests and diagnostic approaches”, including:

  • HIV diagnosis: includes oral HIV tests, self-testing & (non-oral) rapid HIV tests (e.g. false-positives), testing algorithms for low and high prevalence settings, quality control solutions for non-laboratory settings, etc.
  • CD4 testing: includes POC and laboratory based technologies, validation of new tests, connectivity, quality control, etc.
  • Viral load testing: includes POC and laboratory based technologies, dried blood spots, sample pooling, LIS, mHealth for result delivery, etc.
  • HIV drug resistance: includes lab-based molecular technologies, DBS, use of external laboratories, validation of potential new tests, etc.
  • Early infant diagnosis: includes rapid HIV tests, point-of-care and laboratory based molecular technologies, validation of new tests, connectivity, testing algorithms, etc.
  • Diagnosis of opportunistic infections (OIs): includes POC and lab-based tests for CrAg, detection of PCP in sputum, identification of coccidia in stool, HPV and cervical cancer,  
  • TB diagnostics: includes smear microscopy, CRP, TB-LAM, GenXpert, culture, drug susceptibility testing for PTB and EPTB diagnosis.
  • Hepatitis diagnostics: includes serology rapid tests, POC, lab-based molecular technologies for HCV, HepB, HPV, validation of new tests, etc.

The Lab Advisor is responsible to facilitate and advice on quality assurance activities by:

  • Facilitate enrolment of MSF-supported laboratories in regional proficiency testing programmes, for example, via the NICD/NHLS (National Institute of Communicable Disease/National health Institute) in South Africa and others
  • Liaise with MSF field projects to establish quality assurance systems
  • Develop relationships with reference laboratories for External Quality Control
  • Establishing procedures for achieving and maintaining high standards of quality,
  • Enforcement of current regulations and policies
  • Organizes and promotes quality improvement efforts
  • Develops and implements corrective action plans
  • Liaise with the lab working groups on the preparation of intersectional guidelines and reports

Required skills and experience


  • University degree specialising in Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • Postgradute degree is an asset


  • five years of clinical laboratory experience
  • two years of working with analytical laboratory methods inclusive of training and implementation of quality assurance plans and procedures
  • two years MSF field experience in laboratory programmes

Preferred Experience

  • Supervisory/ lab management experience
  • Knowledge of HIV and TB diagnosis (including MDR-TB)
  • Ability to write rapid and succinct reports and laboratory procedures
  • In possession of South African work permit

Knowledge and Skills

  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge of MSF guidelines and policies
  • Willingness and ability to travel 50% of the time
  • Demonstrable commitment to humanitarian issues


  • Fluent in English 
  • Fluent in French and Portuguese/Spanish an asset

Personal attributes

  • Self-motivated, uses initiative
  • Accurate and meticulous
  • Tolerant and patient
  • Systematic and organized
  • Sensitive to diversity and cultural issues
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work in a team and independently
  • Willingness to work beyond official working times.


Please follow this link to submit your application.

Deadline: submissions close at 16:00 (UTC+02:00) on 22 September 2015

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.