Mayo Clinic Labs @Work
Thousands of people in hundreds of different roles work at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Mayo Clinic Labs @Work offers a glimpse behind the scenes into this busy reference laboratory, featuring staff from throughout the organization talking about what they do and why they do it.
I applied to Mayo Clinic at the suggestion of a friend as a place to get a couple of years’ experience before going to grad school. I wanted to refine my career goals, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get my feet wet and see what options existed within a medical institution. It’s 18 years later, and I’m still here. I started in the Hospital Clinical Laboratory in 2003 as a bench tech. I worked my way through several roles there. Then I moved to the Virology/Parasitology Laboratory as a quality specialist.
I went on and spent time working on the Mayo Clinic Labs’ Bid Team, and then I landed in Quality Management Services (QMS). I did return to school and obtained my MBA to help with career goals, but I love the laboratories and have a wealth of knowledge through my daily interactions with other staff all over the organization. I’ve found my work to be fulfilling and rewarding from day one. I find inspiration here daily to learn more and do more.
I’m a regulatory affairs coordinator in QMS. My role is in the reportable diseases program for the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) and Mayo Clinic Laboratories. This role pairs well with my microbiology background. I make sure we are reporting diseases to the state agencies as required by state law.
Day-to-day, I triage test builds of new reportable lab testing in the reportable disease application, and I keep up with each of the 50 states’ — and some U.S. territories’ — regulations related to reportable diseases. Many states have common reportable conditions, like HIV, hepatitis, lead, TB, and COVID-19. But each state puts their own spin on how and when results need to be reported to their public health department. We send reports to each of them every day.
DLMP-QMS staff also serve as subject matter experts for an array of topics that impact the quality of laboratory testing. The guidance provided by QMS is rooted in the regulatory and accreditation agencies such as CLIA, CAP, and New York State, and standards provided by organizations like CLSI and ISO. As Congress reintroduced the VALID act, which could give FDA oversight of lab-developed tests, our regulatory unit has become busy planning for the potential impact if it is voted into law.
If you look at the big picture, there is definitely a connection. My job is one piece of a complex process that allows for reporting of communicable diseases and outbreaks of significance to be shared with our public health partners. The work done by state public health agencies can identify spikes and trends in data. This allows for preventative steps to be taken to educate the public and possibly prevent disease spread. That has a direct impact on patients and communities.
In June 2020, Health and Human Services mandated reporting of every COVID-19 test performed, regardless of the result. It also mandated that several patient demographic fields be included on the report that we usually do not include. Many people spent many hours behind the scenes to build and map fields for the array of COVID-19 tests that were available across all of the Mayo sites (more than 40 test codes to date). Our team provides reports for the laboratory testing performed at all sites within the enterprise. Escalated test implementations also meant escalated reportable disease implementations to ensure no gaps exist in the data required to be shared with states. In addition to the high test volumes and data requirements, the systems also had to be modified to send reports on an hourly basis due to specific state requirements. Not a lot of people realize how much work went into all of that to make it happen.
I find it difficult to plan my workday. There hardly seems to be a day when something pops up that doesn’t require dropping everything else to tend to it. I support other areas beyond reportable diseases, and I never quite know what’s going to come at me on any certain day. Juggling the priorities and triaging all the requests, while still meeting all my deadlines, is a challenge.
My favorite part of my job is the variety. I’m always learning, always engaged. There are constant opportunities for growth. Systems and processes are more complex than they appear on the surface. Peeling the onion, so to speak, is challenging yet rewarding in so many ways. I interact with many different teams and learn so much. It never fails that the things I uncover are applied in future business. I find that nothing is insignificant anymore. I also really enjoy the people I work with. At the end of the day, they are who I come back for in the morning. All of the work we do is more rewarding because I share it with them.
Outreach manager Jane Hermansen regards Mayo Clinic as the pinnacle of healthcare. Having spent her formative years in Minnesota, she was inspired by her uncle Roger to embark on a path as a laboratory scientist. Presently, she oversees the Mayo Clinic Laboratories outreach consulting and network programs. In addition, she spearheads the laboratory industry's only outreach conference, Leveraging the Laboratory.
In spring of 2022, Adam Stewart joined Mayo Clinic’s Blood Donor Program as a marketing and recruitment coordinator. He enjoys and finds great purpose in his work because he loves to see members of his local community donate blood and help patients in need.
Joune Twist has always embraced her natural interest for learning new information and improving processes. In 2019, her curiosity and previous work led her to join Mayo Clinic’s Neuroimmunology Lab. As a medical laboratory scientist, Joune tests patient samples and shares her findings with providers.