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Tonya McCallister

Tonya McCallister

  Supervisor, Newborn Screening,
Public Health Lab

18 years of service

Got any favorite quotes?

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– John Muir

Who inspires you?

For me, inspiration comes from within. The desire to do a good job and make a difference have always been important.

If someone was interested in a public health career, what advice or encouragement would you give them?

If you are interested in a public health career, find someone to shadow so you can identify where your interests are. Then, realize that you are never going to be rich but you will be rewarded with a career that is never boring and makes a difference in the lives of many, if not all, Oklahomans.

What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?

We know we are making a difference in what we do on a daily basis.  Sometimes we get feedback from families who let us know how appreciative they are that newborn screening exists and how it saved the life of their child. Knowing you played a role in that is a great reminder of why we are here and is extremely rewarding. How many people can say they make an impact in the lives of all Oklahomans?

How did you start working in public health?

I had just finished my master’s degree in biochemistry and was looking for a stable job.  I was a single mom and needed a job where I could work during the day and be home with my child at night. I applied for a job in the newborn screening lab without knowing anything about it.  At the time, it was just a job but it has become a career I am proud to share with others.


Can you share a few highlights of your experience in public health in Oklahoma?

When I started working in the newborn screening lab in 2001, we were screening for four conditions.  We now screen for 54 conditions and are expanding our panel to include four additional conditions by the end of next year. A lot has changed since I started working here but the same level of dedication to the families of Oklahoma is still here.  You can see it in the work ethic and pride of our team members.


In your role, how do you educate people about public health?

In my role, I work with hospitals to ensure newborns are screened in a timely manner.  Working in the public health laboratory doesn’t always allow for interaction with the public but there is always an opportunity to educate.  Anytime someone asks what you do, you have an opportunity to educate about public health.


What is the most difficult part of your job?

The most difficult part of my job is working to ensure continuous improvement.  As with any large system or process, continuous quality improvement is an important part of what we do but it can sometimes take time to effect change and reach goals.

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