Ona Saras 

Mayo Clinic Labs @Work

As a clinical specialty representative, Ona Saras’ decade-long dedication to patient care and advocacy for cutting-edge testing at Mayo Clinic Laboratories has transformed lives across Northern California and Reno, Nevada. Through personal experiences and professional insights, Ona shares her commitment to prioritizing patient needs and empowering providers with timely and accurate diagnoses.


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

Ona Saras, clinical specialty representative.

In a previous role at another laboratory, I educated neurologists on genetic testing for neurological disorders. I was fascinated with genetics and helping physicians and patients find answers, but the altruism in that company was lacking. When an opportunity arose at Mayo Clinic Laboratories (MCL) and I saw their motto, “The needs of the patient come first,” it felt like finding the missing piece. I am beyond proud to work for an institution where the needs of the patient come first. My work at MCL carries deeper purpose and meaning. Come August, I'll proudly celebrate a decade of service with MCL.


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

Ona and her Neurology West team at a Mayo Clinic Laboratories conference.

As a clinical specialty representative in neurology for MCL, I cover Northern California and Reno, Nevada. My daily routine involves meeting with neurologists and lab directors across my territory to educate them on MCL's testing options for various neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, autoimmune encephalitis, and myasthenia gravis. Whether it's a 200-mile journey to reach a rural neurologist or a short 10-mile drive to an academic hospital, each day brings a different set of interactions. Yet, the core message remains consistent: delivering the right test for the right patient at the right time. I help to provide access to the best testing for neurological disorders, and I absolutely love my job!


How do you think your work benefits providers and patients?

My work provides neurologists and their patients the access to diagnoses and treatments they need to live a healthy life. While always an advocate for patients, my dedication reached new heights after a deeply personal and enlightening incident involving my son. Two years ago, he experienced a toxic reaction to a medication, leading to a six-day hospitalization. Subsequent medication worsened his condition and based on the reactions within his body and brain, I knew something wasn’t right. Thankfully, with my experience in neurology and genetic testing, I pursued a specific test from MCL, which provided the answers and solutions we needed. Since then, I have spoken to multiple families to spread the word about this testing, sparing them the trauma my son endured. I’m happy to share that my son has fully recovered and is thriving.

Genetic testing saves lives, and this is a truth I’m deeply passionate about. This incident underscored the urgency of delivering answers and diagnoses promptly, particularly in neurology, where timely testing is paramount. For conditions like Autoimmune Encephalopathy, timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to reverse disease. At Mayo, we test for clinically relevant antibodies with a quick turnaround time to heal patients within critical timeframes.

My commitment to empowering providers with the knowledge and access to the correct tests for their patients fuels my passion in this field.


Is there anything about you or your job that others may find surprising? 

Despite being in an outward-facing role at Mayo, I'm quite introverted. During my free time, you'll often find me on leisurely walks, tuned in to “The Minimalists” podcast while capturing nature's beauty through photography. Alternatively, I'll be engrossed in a book on topics like trees, garbage, or environmental issues, cozy on the couch. While this might paint me as somewhat uneventful, I assure you, I'm anything but dull. I'm known for my sense of humor and enjoy bringing fun into the mix. Perhaps I'm more of an extroverted introvert.


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

My objective is to ensure that MCL testing is accessible to all providers, thereby benefiting their patients. The challenge lies in connecting with as many providers as possible, near and far, who each have unique practices and patient populations. Every connection comes with the opportunity for more diagnoses to be made and more patients helped.


What gives you meaning and purpose in your work?  

Ona is pictured with her husband John and sons Dean (15) and James (18).

There are two key elements: 1) The patients. They deserve top-notch testing and answers to navigate their diagnostic journey, enabling appropriate treatment and healing. My meaning lies in serving these patients, while my purpose is to deliver the answers and health they deserve. 2) The incredible team I'm part of. Working alongside my teammates, we support, uplift, and learn from each other. Every day, I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by exceptional individuals who are not only my colleagues but also my friends. It's like hitting the jackpot each day.

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Nicole Holman

Nicole Holman joined Mayo Clinic Laboratories in 2023. She currently serves as communications writer on the marketing team. Nicole enjoys feature writing and storytelling focused on employees, patients, and company culture.