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Tonya Zimmerman
By Mitierra Johnson, Environmental Health Research Assistant

Tonya Zimmerman and Barrette Gregory are Regional Environmental Health Specialists with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Environmental Health Branch.

Tonya oversees some of the central counties in North Carolina, including Alamance, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Randolph, and Rowan.

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Barrette Gregory

While Barrette oversees some of the northwestern counties in North Carolina, including Ashe, Alleghany, Alexander, Avery, Caldwell, Rockingham, Stoke, Surry, Yancey, Yadkin, and Wilkes.

Before becoming a regional specialist, Tonya worked as an Environmental Health Specialist for Rowan County for over 10 years. She also worked as a Safety Auditor for Winn-Dixie. Barrette started his environmental health career at Wilkes County Health Department where he worked for over 20 years.

Due to their experiences working in a local health department, both Tonya and Barrette bring unique perspectives to their roles as regional specialists.

On a day-to-day basis, they both focus on conducting lead investigations for children under the age of 6 that are lead poisoned and at schools and childcare centers. They also authorize local environmental health specialists in their regions for the Child Care and Schools Sanitation Program and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and coordinate the quarterly Centralized Intern Training for Environmental Health Specialists on childcare and school rules.

Working in the lead program is Tonya’s favorite aspect of the job because she can see a direct impact.

“Being able to see the child’s blood lead level lower is rewarding,” she says.

The hardest part of her job is the challenges she faces after identifying a source in a home. Tonya admits that it’s not always easy to get a family or landlord to start the remediation process.

For Barrette, enjoyment comes from the ability to make an environment safer for a child.

“Being able to identify and remove the source of lead feels like an accomplishment,” he reflects.

They both have a background in science. Tonya earned bachelor’s degrees in math and biology with a minor in chemistry from Pfeiffer University, and a master’s degree in public health from Liberty University. Barrette earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from Appalachian State University.

Furthermore, Tonya was on the Executive Committee for the West Piedmont Environmental Health Section for 10 years and on the Executive Committee for the Environmental Health Section of NCPHA for 5 years. She is currently the past president for the Environmental Health Section of NCPHA.

Tonya and Barrette enjoy hearing about the different programs across the state and building new connections through the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force.


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