Sainu Owusu-Afriyie

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.


What brought you to Mayo Clinic, and how long have you worked here?

I was a chemistry major in college, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’m from India, and I grew up in four different countries in Africa and had always planned to go back after college to do some type of social work in India or Africa. But I found that the chemistry classes really appealed to me instead of the social work classes. When it was time to graduate and start looking for a job, though, I didn’t know what I should do. I wasn’t thinking of health care as an option for me, but I went to a big job fair, and Mayo Clinic had a booth there.

Sainu Owusu-Afriyie

I stopped to chat, they took my resume, and I moved on. I didn’t think much of it until I got a letter from Mayo a few weeks later suggesting I apply for a lab technologist job posting, which I did. I got an interview, and then I got the job in what was then known as the Drug Lab (Clinical Mass Spectrometry Lab today). That was in 2001. Looking back, I can clearly see that the job found me, and I’m so glad it did.


What was your path to your current job, and what does your daily work involve now?

I started out as a lab technologist, then went on to become a technical specialist,  assistant supervisor, and supervisor. I was very content in the labs and stayed there for 16 years. During that period, around 2013, I stumbled across project management. It was around the time that I was looking for something new to accomplish, and the project management certification sounded good to me. The project management methodology resonated with me and reminded me a lot of the scientific process. It felt like a natural fit.

In 2017, I moved into a project manager role with the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Facilities Support and then transitioned to Strategy Management Services in 2018. I moved into my current role as senior project manager in Strategy Management Services in 2020. The key part of my role today is to be a trusted partner to Mayo Collaborative Services leadership and to help move strategic initiatives forward. I support several large projects that fall under our growth priority, including Mayo Clinic BioPharma Diagnostics. The work can be ambiguous at times, and that could be frustrating for some people, but I enjoy it.


How does the work you do make a difference for health care providers and patients?

When I worked in the lab, each sample tube served as a constant reminder of the patient behind the sample and Mayo Clinic’s primary value, the needs of the patient come first. In my role now, even without patient interactions or physical reminders, that primary value continues to be front and center for all of us. We always ask the question, “How do we benefit patients?” And within the organization, no one will ever question that everything we do, ultimately, is for the benefit of the patient. We’re all part of that. That’s why we are here.


Is there anything about your role that people might find surprising or unexpected?

One of the pieces I enjoy in my role now is that it includes relationship-building and connecting with people. I like that it’s part of my everyday job. And although it may sound rather basic, I think people might be surprised to learn how important it is in a role like mine. Ultimately, making solid connections allows me to work better with others, build trust, and be more successful in moving forward strategic initiatives. Connections and relationships can inspire, motivate, and empower in ways that are unexpected.


What part of your job do you find the most challenging?

Because our organization is moving at a very rapid pace toward lofty goals, we have to be OK with challenging status quo and occasionally being in conflict, and that can sometimes be challenging. While conflict is uncomfortable, if handled in a manner that allows for differences while still upholding our values of respect and compassion, it can make for stronger and more aligned teams.


What gives you meaning and purpose in your work?

What motivates me is helping people to move forward. I love being engaged in places where I can contribute and help others make solid progress. Where I am now, I’m feeling a great deal of fulfilment in being able to do that.

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Tracy Will

Tracy Will is a senior marketing specialist at Mayo Clinic Laboratories where she covers innovation, specialty testing, and advances in laboratory medicine. Tracy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2016.