Todd Walker

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 been here?

I came to Mayo Clinic about 19 years ago. Before that I was a manager at several manufacturing companies. Someone I used to work with had joined Mayo Clinic and told me about a manager opening at the lab. I wasn’t sure if it was fit. I thought well, I am a business major, and I have been in manufacturing, but I didn’t have the science or biology background.

Todd Walker

My friend explained to me how the lab runs, getting samples from all over the country, and having good processes and systems in place to perform the work quickly and effectively. There were a lot of parallels to what I’d already been doing. So, after I took a tour of the lab, they offered me the job and I was super excited. Mayo Clinic is world-renowned, and even though I grew up as a military brat, and I wasn’t from Minnesota, I always knew that Mayo Clinic was special, and just felt honored right away being a Mayo employee. Coming to work for Mayo Clinic was an easy decision for me.


What is your current role and what does your day-to-day work involve?

I am a laboratory supervisor for Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Specimen Operations. Every day is very different. Before I even come in to work, I am focused on checking to see if all the early work has arrived to the lab, making sure there are no delays in flights, reviewing reports about how many samples are coming in, how our staffing looks for the day, and seeing if anything jumps out at me.

When I get to the lab, we have pod huddles and a lead huddle to review what to expect for the day. I am currently managing about 100 people, so that also takes a good amount of my day — supporting my team, interviewing candidates, helping with professional development. I like to talk to people about my passion for Mayo, the honor that it is for me to be here, the good things that we do, and encourage them to be a part of that.


In what way does the work you do benefit providers and patients?

We have 60+ state-of-the-art labs and a great team of experts who work with providers to put their patients first. Our test catalog is comprehensive with over 3,000 tests. Many of them are very specialized and can only be done at Mayo Clinic Labs.

We have an incredible global logistics infrastructure to support our operations of processing 40,000 specimens in a day. My department is the gateway between collecting and delivering those specimens and getting them processed. We are very quality- and customer-focused so we can ensure there is a good, accurate order in the system, and that we can move specimens through at a good clip. Because of our services, expertise, and people, I feel strongly that we offer so much more than other reference laboratories.


What are you most proud of?

It is amazing how far we’ve come in 19 years. We get 40,000 human specimens in a day now to process. When I first started, we were doing 12,000, and we really didn't have a lot of processes or infrastructure in place. Over the years we have created systems for processing specimens in an efficient way, introduced automation, established pods, increased our recycling programs, and much more.

Within our workforce, I am really proud of hiring a diverse team. Our lab employees represent all different backgrounds, age groups, and cultures. Also when I started, there wasn’t a clear career path for our staff. Since then, we have added additional roles, such as assistant supervisors, and created lots of opportunities for promotion and longevity.


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

Trying to think of efficiencies for the future can be challenging. We are trying to figure out how we can use automation to our advantage and optimize the accessioning process. We were thrown the huge curveball of COVID, and we had to work through the surge in daily specimens and the staffing challenges that it produced. Curveballs like that force us to look at technology to see how we can leverage it for efficiency.


How are you looking to the future of Specimen Operations?

I am starting a master’s degree program soon called digital transformation in the health care industry. I am hoping it will get me to that next level in my thinking, learning a lot more about digital technology and how to apply that to my work here at MCL to develop future solutions for us.

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Luci Gens

Luci Gens is a marketing manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She joined Mayo Clinic in 2022 and has over ten years of experience in hospital-based marketing and communications.