Get an Inside Look at the AZ State Health Lab

Protecting Arizonans at every stage of life at the AZ State Health Lab

The Arizona State Public Health Laboratory protects you and your loved ones in ways you may not realize. In addition to licensure and certification services for laboratories across Arizona, the state lab tests air, food, water, and clinical samples for a murderer’s row of public health threats, including tuberculosis, heavy metal toxins, pesticides, and radioactive contaminants.

A new ADHS film series offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the work done at this cutting-edge facility impacts Arizonans at every stage of life — starting from the very beginning.

Newborn screening

Every child born in Arizona is tested for rare but life-altering medical conditions that most people have never heard of. From just six spots of blood, public health scientists rule out enzymatic deficiencies, metabolic conditions, hemoglobin disorders, spinal muscular atrophy, and other congenital disorders. Abnormal results will be confirmed, then sent to a follow-up specialist who contacts parents and providers to make sure the families get access to testing and treatment.

Emergency preparedness & response

As part of national emergency preparedness and response networks, the state lab stands ready to respond to biological, chemical, or radiological events here and across the country. In regular surge event drills, the bioterrorism and chemical warfare programs process huge volumes of samples. During real emergencies, the lab provides intelligence to medical providers, law enforcement, and political decision-makers.

Virology & serology

The Virology and Serology section tests human, mosquito, and animal samples for public health threats like influenza, rabies, and the West Nile virus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this section conducted COVID-19 testing. Today, we continue to provide data to the state about the COVID-19 virus and its variants.

Opioid surveillance

The Opioid Surveillance program works with county medical examiners to better understand fatal drug overdoses in Arizona and provide data that helps get life-saving medication where it is most needed. Future testing will help provide data on nonfatal overdoses.


The state laboratory is the primary testing facility for drug-resistant tuberculosis in Arizona. Physicians across the state submit samples from suspected tuberculosis cases. Extraordinary fail-safes at the Biosafety Level 3 facility keep our public health scientists safe as they test these samples for highly infectious agents. The results help the provider choose the medication that will best treat their patient’s infection. 

To arrange an in-person tour of the Arizona State Health Laboratory for your government, educational, or science-based organization, please contact us

By |January 19th, 2024

About the Author: 

Kathryn Wangsness, MHA, is the Assistant Bureau Chief for the Bureau of State Laboratory Services (ASPHL) at the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Kathryn has been part of the ADHS team since 1997 working as a scientist, certification officer, office chief and now bureau chief over the Offices of Chemistry, Laboratory Licensure and Certification, and Support Services and Operations. She earned her Masters of Health Administration from the University of Phoenix and her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Kathryn joined ADHS in 1997 as a chemist analyzing water samples for inorganic parameters. In 2001, she accepted a position as a Blood Alcohol consultant, which lasted two years, and concurrently as a Federal/State Laboratory Licensure Surveyor in the Office of Laboratory Services. She is an approved EPA certification officer for inspecting inorganics, organics, and microbiology compliance testing in drinking water laboratories. In 2006, she accepted the position of quality assurance manager. In 2008, Kathryn became the Office Chief for the Office of Laboratory Services. She is an alumnus of the APHL Emerging Leader Program and participates in the Emerging Leader Alumni Network (ELAN). She has been trained in continuous quality improvement strategies such as Lean and Six Sigma. She has assisted the laboratory in becoming ISO/IEC 17025 accredited for food and forensic testing. Kathryn is an active participant in APHL and has served as a member of the Laboratory Systems and Standards Committee from 2021 to present, as a member and as chair the last three years, of the Environmental Laboratory Science Committee from 2009 to 2021, as Chair of the Governmental Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Subcommittee from 2009 to 2016, has participated in numerous workgroups, Co-chaired the Public Health Laboratory Competencies workgroups for surveillance and communication from 2012 to 2014, and chaired the Data Acceptance Workgroup.
Posted in AZBio News.