Sofia Huertero shoulders a lot of responsibility at San Diego Blood Bank, but she's always quick to smile and say hello. More than that, Sofia leads her laboratory staff with precision, passion and certainty. Her work—and the work of her staff—helps ensure that donated blood is safe for local patients. We recently sat down with Sofia: enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at one of our passionate laboratory professionals.
Sofia, can you start by explaining your position here at the San Diego Blood Bank?
I’m the manager of the components production lab. I graduated from University of California, San Diego with a degree in general biology. I started at San Diego Blood Bank in 2009 when I was hired as a lab tech, and over the years I progressed into a team lead, supervisor, assistant manager, and now manager of this department for about four years.
Can you talk a bit about the inner-workings of the components production lab?
Everything that is drawn at our collection sites and mobile drives comes back to our lab first. We do all of the intake in the computer systems, initial inspections to make sure all the blood products appear normal, and all of the manufacturing. A lot of people don’t realize that there are many steps between the collection of blood and its distribution to hospitals. In collaboration with other labs, we handle those steps in between. We confirm that the blood has been properly tested and is safe before it goes out to our hospitals. We can process anywhere between 200-450 units of blood a day. We're working until the early morning to get all of the blood processed. A lot of the blood products have time constraints that we have to work within, which must be thought about when processing.
You are passionate about leading people. How did you develop the traits that make for a great leader?
I have played soccer for most of my life, from age seven all the way through college. As one of the captains of my team, I learned a lot about teamwork. You learn how to delegate responsibility, dedication, and the discipline required to show up to every single practice. If you miss practice, there are consequences...you don’t get to play. When I was young, I was playing just for fun. Looking back now, I can see that I learned all of these important life skills.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced?
I did the Half Dome hike in Yosemite. It was a 16-mile hike that took over 10 hours with 4800 feet of elevation change. It was very rewarding, physically and visually. I was very proud of myself because it was the most challenging thing I have ever done. It was also the first camping trip I had ever been on.