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 came to Mayo Clinic in January of 2018 as a Molecular Genetics Technology intern from Northern Michigan University. I’m proud to say I’ve been with Mayo for almost six years.
After earning my associated bachelor’s degree and completing my six-month internship with Extraction Core/Molecular Genetics, now known as Shared Laboratory Services and Molecular Technologies, I was hired full-time. Since joining, I have held three different positions within the same general laboratory. I spent roughly 2 ½ years as a clinical technologist in Extraction Core, roughly one year as a clinical technologist in Molecular Technologies. and for the past two years in my current position as a laboratory information system (LIS) technical specialist in Molecular Technologies.
In my current role as an LIS technical specialist, I work with laboratory instrumentation for a few different labs within the Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics (LGG). My team and I primarily manage Molecular Technologies but also cover Shared Laboratory Services (SLS) and Oligo Prep. In addition, we have started to cover the liquid handler from the MicroArray Laboratory.
A workday for me differs just about every day but mainly involves reviewing and troubleshooting instrumentation, addressing process improvement requests, and answering instrument software questions by email. Troubleshooting emails may span a wide spectrum of issues, from automated liquid handlers or analyzers not performing as anticipated to malfunctioning incubators and a host of other equipment-related challenges. Some issues we may see frequently and might require one of our team members to perform basic maintenance. Other times, we work directly with healthcare technology management (HTM) or the vendor to get a part replaced and then coordinate validation or verification work following the repair.
Other duties we perform may involve collaborating with developers, lab applications teams, and various other departments to introduce new assays or tests and to conduct routine equipment maintenance.
I play a part in keeping the lab up and running so patients and providers receive accurate results in a timely fashion. I also help automate new tests and refine existing tests for better automation and more efficient throughput. Ultimately, this allows us to process more patient samples and improves turnaround time.
Although my current position focuses on our instrumentation, it does not require an engineering degree. I have a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science with a concentration in molecular biology. If I need an engineer for a repair, I reach out to a different group of specialists at Mayo or the specific instrument's field service engineer.
One of the trickiest parts of my job is when problems mysteriously fix themselves with no clear explanation. It can be quite challenging to explain to a technologist why something that was once an issue is suddenly working, even though it seems like nothing significant changed. In these scenarios, I’m glad the problem was resolved, but it can be a bit of a head-scratcher when I can't figure out how to prevent it from popping up in the future or troubleshoot it if it does.
I have great pride in knowing that I am an integral part of the lab. While I no longer extract DNA or RNA directly from patient samples or set up and result genetic testing for hereditary or oncology samples, I still make sure these processes continue to operate as smoothly as possible. And when instrumentation issues do arise, I am part of a team that works to identify and fix issues before delays in testing occur.
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Robin Huiras-Carlson's connection with Mayo Clinic traces back to her early years, marked by a diagnosis of a rare genetic condition at the age of 10. Today, as a senior marketing specialist with Mayo Clinic Laboratories, she draws inspiration and purpose from this personal journey to illuminate Mayo’s positive impact on patients and ongoing evolution in diagnostics.
Becca Johnson, a dedicated project manager, joined Mayo Clinic in 2014, driven by a desire to contribute to an organization making a global impact. With BioPharma Diagnostics, Becca oversees large projects, ensuring efficient sample handling and timely client results. Committed to patient-centric care, she works on transitioning clients to electronic solutions for streamlined processes. Becca finds purpose in collaborative efforts that shape healthcare's future and positively impact patients' lives.
In her current role as senior manager for global logistics at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Sarah Mason oversees the coordination of patient sample shipments by working with a network of stakeholders, couriers, carriers, and vendors. Sarah emphasizes the critical nature of safe and timely delivery of more than 38,000 samples each day, highlighting the dynamic challenges in healthcare logistics. Through her work, she finds meaning and purpose in collaborating with diverse teams to bring impactful change to Mayo Clinic operations and its patients.