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.
It's an interesting story because I never intended to actually come to Mayo Clinic to work. I was completing a student internship at the VA in Minneapolis and had won a vendor-sponsored student scholarship. To receive it, I attended a regional histotechnology society meeting here in Rochester.
During the meeting, the Histology Laboratory supervisor encouraged me at the time to apply here. I planned on going back to school and had already accepted at the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in biochemistry, so I was not very interested in a serious career position at the time.
I remember the supervisor nearly dragging me over to HR to file an application. So, I thought, OK I will apply, maybe something will come out of it. I was a offered a job interview for a new laboratory that had recently been created to perform immunohistochemistry testing, which was cutting-edge science at that time. I was eventually offered a position and never looked back.
I have been at Mayo Clinic for 36 years and have had probably 10 or more roles within multiple Mayo Clinic departments and divisions within the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP).
I am an operations administrator supporting the division of anatomic pathology. Every day is different, but my daily work usually focuses on ensuring the needs of my teams are being met. An important aspect of my position is to ensure they have the resources, tools, and guidance to help them be successful and happy as they perform important patient care work. Other important activities involve leadership development, succession planning, reviewing proposals and requests, strategic planning, and advocating for my teams.
While my work is not directly patient connected, I help make decisions and provide assistance to ensure patient testing is done in a high quality and timely manner. Our many laboratory and support teams work very hard each day to ensure pathology results are available to our providers and patients so they can support health care decisions. My role is to support my teams with tools and resources to be successful, and to assist them in developing innovative approaches to improve the work they do and the results accomplished.
There are a few things. One is that operations administrators generally rotate their assignments about every three to six years. I am currently on my second rotation as an administrator in DLMP. Prior to this, I supported divisions of microbiology and clinical biochemistry and immunology.
In addition, for one or two weeks each year, operations administrators become the Mayo Clinic administrator on call. That means during off hours and weekends, we serve as the point of contact via pager for situations on the Rochester campus which require escalation to resolve. Escalated issues may involve patient concerns, facility problems, emergencies, snow/weather days, and things like that.
It is the realization that I, nor my leadership team, can solve all the problems and challenges that our employees have, or that might exist in our operations. We are all on a journey seeking harmony and perfection in the workplace; however, those are often a destination that we hope to arrive at. As a problem solver my inclination is to constantly pursue solutions. When our teams are challenged, the feeling permeates throughout our leadership team.
We can make incremental movements forward a little bit at a time. There are challenges that get thrown at us, like the last couple of years with the pandemic. We do what we can, but I think the burden can be heavy at times.
I feel connected to the values of Mayo Clinic and our role in the health care community and service to patients. I grew up in a small community in west-central Wisconsin, which was served by Mayo Clinic’s emergency services. Mayo Clinic possessed a reputation of being the place where very sick or injured patients were saved. On a more personal level, I was drawn into management and leadership to, in some way, help people. Help people solve problems, help others be happy and successful, and be a part of solutions. That gives me purpose in my day-to-day work life, and hope that small actions translate to improved experiences for our patients at Mayo Clinic.
Deb Wells is the director of Quality Management Services at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. A science lover from a young age, Deb has long worked in medical laboratory science and is passionate about being an advocate for lab safety and quality.
Connie Ohnstad is the supervisor for Mayo Clinic Laboratories Inventory, which includes Mayo Clinic Laboratories Packaging and Specimen Kit Orders (SKO). Connie wears many hats as a supervisor at MCL, and she has a long history with Mayo Clinic, which has employed several generations of Connie’s family. She takes pride in ensuring that every day she offers her best for her employees, patients, and clients.
Heather Zovnic is a region director of sales of gastroenterology and infectious disease with Mayo Clinic Laboratories (MCL). Heather leads a team of clinical specialty representatives who meet with hospital laboratory and clinic staff across 20 states in the western United States. They help ordering providers learn about Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ comprehensive test catalog and specialty test offerings.