Robin Huiras-Carlson

Mayo Clinic Labs @Work

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.


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

Robin takes a moment to enjoy nature’s beauty on a trip to South Carolina in winter 2023.

Decades before I became an employee, I experienced Mayo Clinic’s patient-centric approach to healthcare. At just 10 years old, I walked through Mayo’s doors for the first time with my parents searching for answers after experiencing chronic headaches and easy bruising that left deep purple marks on my arms and legs.

Following a series of tests and appointments, I met with my dad’s hematologist, Dr. Clark Hoagland. Dr. Hoagland, a world-renowned physician and educator, was versed in some of the world’s rarest hematologic disorders. He diagnosed me with dyskeratosis congenita, the same rare genetic condition as my dad. At the time of his diagnosis, my dad was one of about a dozen cases recognized globally and little was known about the disease and its genetic etiology.

Dr. Hoagland monitored my disease progression until my early 20s. By then, I moved out East to pursue a career in print journalism. In 2014, after moving back to Minnesota with my family, I resumed care at Mayo. A year later, my mom — a Mayo employee since the late 1990s — informed me of a freelance opportunity in the communications department. A short time later, I was hired as a supplemental employee writing patient stories for the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog. Speaking with patients and writing about their successes was a dream job, but then the pandemic hit.

Over the next year, my supervisor at the time reassured me there was a place for me at Mayo Clinic and that changes were happening. Among those areas changing was Mayo Clinic Laboratories. In February 2021, I learned its marketing team was in need of writers and that I could start immediately as a supplemental employee.

My first few months were a blur. As a medical writer, I understood diseases and treatments, but the learning curve to grasp marketing lingo combined with the language of the laboratory was steep. However, I’ve always embraced a challenge and was pleasantly surprised when my new managers invited me to apply for a full-time position when it became available.


What’s your current role and what does a typical workday look like for you?

Robin and her family celebrate her daughter Eva’s first communion. (Left to right: Robin, daughter Eva, husband Joe, and daughter Diana)

As a senior marketing specialist focused on content marketing, each day is different from the next. I work collaboratively on teams that can include product managers, genetic counselors, laboratory physicians, and patients. In addition, I work with our design and digital teams to develop content for our landing pages and print assets. I also write long-form pieces, including case studies, innovation articles, eBooks, and my favorite — patient stories — to promote our testing. Lately, I’ve been able to parlay my storytelling skills to a video environment, which is challenging but extremely exciting.


Are there any areas of laboratory medicine that resonate greater with you?

As someone who is affected by a rare genetic disease, I am fascinated by the impact of genes on our health and what they can reveal about ourselves. When I received my rare disease diagnosis 35 years ago, it was made clinically through bone marrow aspirate testing. It wasn’t until 2004, following the evaluation of specific portions of my family’s genome and discovery of my genetic variant, that a genetic diagnosis could be made. That discovery helped 10 other families receive their genetic diagnoses, giving them answers they’d longed for. Today, patients don’t have to undergo a bone marrow biopsy to receive a diagnosis. Genetic diagnosis can be made through a simple blood test, which is significantly less painful than a bone marrow biopsy, but no less meaningful. With more than 25 million Americans living with rare, undiagnosed conditions, genetic testing has the power to move the needle on rare illnesses, giving hope to those living in fear and uncertainty.


How do you think your work benefits providers and patients?

Whether I’m detailing the journey of a novel test through development and implementation or sharing the diagnostic odyssey of a patient with a rare disease, my ability to tell stories has been informed and shaped by my experiences as a patient. When I write about the anxiety that accompanies a wait for test results or the hope that blooms when a new treatment is approved, I understand the importance of accurate information because I am a patient who relies on test results to plan for the future. This perspective underpins my work. I like to hope that presenting and incorporating the patient perspective into my stories reinforces the reason we’re all here.


Which part(s) of your job is the most challenging, and why?  

What is challenging about my job is also the thing I love about it: nonstop action and ceaseless change. The marketing team is a hive of activity, constantly brainstorming and implementing new ways to promote our tests and extend our reach. The pace of advances in laboratory and diagnostic medicine, whether remote diagnostics, advanced genomic sequencing, or clinical trial testing, continues to accelerate. But as my teammate Samantha likes to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and together we’re accomplishing amazing things.  


What gives you meaning and purpose in your work?  

Robin enjoys a bird’s-eye view of the Windy City from the top of the Hancock Tower.

Using my writing ability to show the impact our testing has on patients, providers, and the community at large allows me to feel like I am a force for good in this world. Whether I am the conduit for a patient to tell their story, promoting the benefits of a first-in-class test for a hard-to-diagnose condition, or sharing how a small rural lab amplified its reach to underserved communities, my writing shines a light on the positive impact of our work. It feels good to know my writing with Mayo Clinic serves as proof that with the right team and tools, anything is possible.

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