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Duke-UNC TTS Participant Spotlight: Lani Callison

Creating magnetic and sustainable shifts in individuals, organizations and communities

Lani Callison is a passionate and experienced leader with over 28 years in the field of healthcare and life sciences. Lani completed the Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Program in Fall 2023. We had the opportunity to chat with Lani and learn more about her work, her vision, and her inspirations.

What is your current work role?

I am currently the Regional 2 Tobacco Control Manager, covering 10 counties in Western North Carolina. This role is with the state of NC Department of Health and Human Services – Chronic Disease and Injury.


How has your participation in the Duke-UNC TTS Training Program helped you in that role?

Participation in the program has brought a ten-fold return on investment! The program was incredibly comprehensive, preparing me to apply my new skills in multiple arenas, including schools, colleges, city and county governments, behavioral health and substance abuse facilities, and with communities of historic disparities. From youth vaping to cigarette smoking in older populations and all points in between, I am confident in addressing these issues and working in tandem with staff, clients, and all stakeholders to reduce the disease and death caused by tobacco.

What are some of the challenges you face in your work and how have your TTS skills helped you manage those challenges?

The challenges in tobacco prevention and cessation work have grown exponentially with the advent of vaping, e-cigarettes, dab pens, nicotine pouches, synthetic nicotine, vape shops--you name it. Along with this has come some of the most effective and ruthless digital marketing that targets youth. Anyone involved in the fight in any arena now needs to have exceptional training to counter these high numbers of tobacco users and the tactics used by big tobacco.

Picture of students walking along a street with backpacks.

When you visit a typical high school, you can expect to be dealing with 1 in 4 students who vape. The Duke-UNC TTS program gave me the tools and skills to address youth in empowering ways, with an in-depth understanding of the neurobiology of nicotine addiction in youth and adults; powerful motivational interviewing skills to help anyone at any point in their journey; the pharmacology of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and how to best use it; the best evidence-based practices for cessation; and the importance of a coaching component. The program provides a full picture and complete follow-through to assist the individual, school, or organization.

I also learned about the effect local policy can have to make the healthy choice the easy choice, from zoning to Tobacco 21 to surveying retailers. All this helps with addressing and educating stakeholders and facilitating conversations with those in local government.


What advice do you have for someone considering going into a tobacco treatment role?

1) We need you!...and the work is purposeful and rewarding.

2) Take the Duke-UNC TTS course – you will be glad you did!


What is something interesting you would like people to know about you?

Picture of a mountain gorilla in the Congo

I used to study mountain gorillas in the Congo. I thought I went there to study them. What happened is they taught me the greatest life lessons that center me to this day. Here are a few of the lessons that I learned from gorillas:

  • The present moment is all that matters. We do not live any moment that is outside the present.

  • Community and family equals home and belonging--everyone chips in, and everyone matters. They do it together. Cohesion and connection abound!

  • Gorillas smile and laugh and fart!  But then they are vegetarians that basically live in a salad bowl.  They never show this on the nature shows.  I’ve always wondered why.

  • Perhaps most importantly--slow down and just BE. There is no time to hurry.  They taught me to just sit quietly in the rain without thinking, the importance of play, and how to watch out for each other.

While you won't see a beautiful and powerful gorilla in the Duke-UNC TTS Training Program, you will have a chance to gain insight about how best to help your patients, students, and communities with experienced faculty from Duke, UNC, and the NC Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch.

Join us for our next Comprehensive Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Program from March 18-26. Visit our website to learn more or register now!


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