The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Celebrates International Women’s Day!
The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine is a world leader. Its team of experts are renowned for their work in Disaster Victim Identification, Missing Persons, CT Scanning and Tissue Donation, among many other forensic applications.
But in what has traditionally been known as ‘a man’s world’, the VIFM is also a leader in its employment of fabulous women.
Of its 270 employees, almost 70% are women. Of its 28 member Managers Forum, only four are men!
From the Chief Operating Officer, Mari-Ann Scott, Head of Pathology, Dr Linda Iles, Manager of National and International Programs, Dr Elizabeth Manning and Manager of Identification Services and Senior Anthropologist, Dr Soren Blau, to the Divisional Manager of HR and Safety Portfolios, Barbara Thorne and many, many others, the VIFM boasts a team of amazing females in senior management roles.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we’re proud to feature four of these amazing women.
Manager of Research & Development, Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria
Kellie majored in Anatomy at University and as part of her Honours studies, began a project at the VIFM in the early days of the DTBV.
That project led to a part-time job, then a full-time job and she has never looked back.
Kellie is now Manager of Research & Development.
“I love my job. Every single day is a new challenge and I am proud to work for the DTBV and VIFM” Kellie said.
“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how the generous donations of tissue from donors and their families can be carefully processed into easily transplantable grafts that improve the lives of so many people in need.” she said.
Dr Dadna Hartman
Head Molecular Biology
Dadna’s love of science began as a curious child growing up in South America. She arrived in Australia as a 10 -year-old who could not speak a word of English, but like a little sponge, Dadna was able to learn and continue her love affair with the sciences.
Dadna was the first in her family to attend University, and as a postgraduate student in the Department of Biochemistry at La Trobe University, she discovered the wonders of DNA.
“My scientific training in molecular biology enabled me to transfer my skill set to varied fields of application, taking me from cancer research to animal genetics and genomics, and ultimately leading me to forensics and it is here that I truly found my calling,” she said.
Dadna studied at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas and loves her work at the VIFM, where she helps to identify deceased persons through DNA.
“I welcome the privilege of assisting our community,” she said. “I didn’t truly appreciate the complexity of the work undertaken as part of a forensic investigation until I started working at the VIFM as the Chief Molecular Biologist. I guess I was always destined to work with DNA – signing off, daDNA.”
Associate Professor Jennifer Schumann
Head of the Drug Intelligence Unit
Jenn’s interest in forensics began in primary school when she read the ‘Fear Street’ series by American author R.L Stine.
Her Grade Three teacher encouraged her keen interest in teen crime fiction but on reflection, Jenn think she was a bit concerned about the niche content for a nine-year-old!
Jenn finished school before ‘CSI’ became an international TV phenomenon, and there weren’t many options in terms of pathways for a career in forensics.
The roles in this coveted area were limited but she completed her Honours year in Pharmacology at the VIFM and continued on with a PhD, discovering her interest in drug epidemiology and the real-world impacts that her research could have in identifying opportunities for death prevention and the safer use of drugs.
“I love collaborating with experts across so many different fields including clinical and forensic medicine, injury prevention, harm reduction, public health and policy,” Jenn said.
Jenn was awarded a Victoria Fellowship in 2013 and a Churchill Fellowship in 2019, which enabled her to travel to Europe and North America to attend conferences, establish collaborations, investigate drug policy, and develop research projects with her international colleagues.
Valerie dreamt of being a veterinarian.
When she studied Animal and Veterinary Biosciences at La Trobe University, her favourite subjects were Genetics and Microbiology.
Valerie was interested in PCR so she applied to do Honours at the VIFM in Molecular Biology.
“I will never forget the first time I went to the Molecular Biology Lab in for my interview with Dr Dadna Hartman, who is now my boss,” she said.
“That very day, I knew I wanted to work in forensics, specialising in molecular biology, as my interests for PCR increased when I learned its application to identify deceased persons through DNA analysis,” Valerie said.
Valerie works on the Method development for ante mortem buccal FTA samples, toenail samples, and post mortem bloodstain samples.
Kaitlyn grew up with a fascination in animals, anatomy and the concept of death. When her pet chickens died, she naturally wanted to find out why.
After attending a careers day at the VIFM, Kaitlyn studied zoology at university, where she looked at the functional anatomy and biomechanics of toothed whales and was lucky enough to assist in the dissection of a pilot whale head.
Kaitlyn worked at Dorevitch Pathology, during her Honours year and in 2018, she was lucky enough to get the Research Assistant position in the VIFM Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Last year, she was promoted to a Scientist position, helping to perform DNA testing for coronial cases.
“I’m very grateful to have joined the lab. Although it is just a small team, it is an awesome group of people with a supportive manager. As a lab we take pride in performing our part of the identification process and helping families get their loved one back as quickly as possible,” Kaitlyn said.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to learn, not just in my current position, but as new technologies develop and also contribute to improving processes in the laboratory.” She said.