Kristen Burke, MBA

Regional Toxicology Liaison
NHTSA Region 9

Kristen retired from public service in 2022 and worked in the Toxicology field for over 24 years. She is a Toxicology Liaison for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 9 and supports AZ, CA, HI, and Pacific Territories.

In her most recent role as the toxicology liaison for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 9, Kristen has staunchly supported traffic safety in Arizona, California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. Her role is to ensure the highest standards of toxicology analysis are maintained to enhance public safety.

Before her retirement, Kristen served for an impressive five years as the Laboratory Director for the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services – Toxicology Laboratory. Her visionary leadership played a pivotal role in providing indispensable services to 46 of the 58 counties in California. Kristen’s expertise in toxicology became a cornerstone in legal proceedings, where she not only directed the laboratory’s operations but also testified extensively on the effects of alcohol and drugs on human performance and in postmortem scenarios.

Furthermore, Kristen’s commitment to forensic sciences extended beyond her role as Laboratory Director. While employed at the Sacramento County Laboratory of Forensic Services, she actively contributed to public safety as a member of the Crime Lab Response Team and Clandestine Laboratory Response Team. Kristen’s multifaceted contributions underscore her dedication to the highest standards of forensic analysis and her hands-on involvement in addressing critical challenges in the field. She excelled as a Quality Manager/Supervisor and a Criminalist at the Sacramento County Crime Lab for over three years in addition to the 8.5 years in the toxicology unit. Further, she enriched her knowledge during a 7.5-year tenure in the private sector as a toxicologist.

A recognized authority in her field, Kristen is actively involved in influential organizations. She was a SAMHSA’s Federal Drug Testing Advisory Board member, contributing her expertise to shape national policies. Additionally, she is a member of the National Safety Council’s Alcohol, Drug, and Impairment Division and plays a vital role on The Society of Forensic Toxicologists- Toxicology Resource Committee.

Kristen’s commitment to public service is exemplified by her role as the Committee Chair for the Technology, Research, and Data Subcommittee of the Impaired Driving Task Force in California. Through this leadership position, she has made significant contributions to advancing the understanding of impaired driving.

Throughout her career, Kristen has been a dedicated educator, imparting her knowledge to prosecutors, law enforcement professionals, fellow toxicologists, and stakeholders in traffic safety. Her passion for education led her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Micro/Molecular) from Portland State University in 1997, followed by an MBA from the University of Southern California (USC) in 2021. Currently pursuing an M.S. in the Ayurveda Integrative Medicine Program at Maharishi International University, Kristen aspires to continue her academic journey with a Doctorate in Physiology, focusing on researching the impact of pharmaceuticals on health.

Some awards and recognition Kristen received was the NHTSA 2020 Public Service Award Recipient 2020 for her leadership and expertise in implementing toxicology best practices, drug testing, and expanded screening in CA. The University of Southern CA also recognized her as a future leader with her award from NHTSA and an article in Select Science highlighting her lab’s accomplishments with implementing the “One Stop Shot Method” under her leadership.

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