Joe McCall Shares his Journey to Quality Assurance
Joe McCall is Team Lead of the Quality Assurance at Bausch + Lomb. He works in the private industry, specifically in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. He leads a team of microbiologists who are responsible for the microbiological safety, purity, and identity of Bausch + Lomb's contact lens care and ophthalmic solutions. He received his Bachelor's of Science from Charter Oak State College and University of Masschusetts at Amherst.
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Describe your job and what do you do on a day to day basis?
I lead a team of microbiologists who are responsible for the microbiological safety, purity, and identity of Bausch + Lomb's contact lens care and ophthalmic solutions. On daily basis, using a variety of technologies and methods, we assess the microbiological quality of the products we produce and the environment in which they're produced. We investigate microbiological deviations, and provide training and expert advice on all aspects of aseptic processing and our products.
How did you get into your current position? In other words, what experiences/skills did you have that made you a good fit for your current job?
I started at an entry-level position at a biotechnology company, working as a Quality Control microbiologist. My college coursework in microbiology was what got my foot in the door. Most entry-level positions in industry require a degree in the life sciences (biology, microbiology, zoology, etc.) but preference is given to candidates that specifically have microbiology experience. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), which is the compendium of drug information for the United States and is enforced by the FDA, states in General Information chapter <1117> Microbiological Best Laboratory Practices, "The demands of microbiological testing require that the core educational background of the staff, supervisors, and managers be in microbiology or a closely related biological science." So there is a federal standard, obliging companies in the bio-pharma field, to hire those of us with an education in microbiology!
What can students and postdocs do right now to best prepare themselves for entering your profession?
Find professional groups and affiliations related to the field and get actively involved with them. The connections you make will prove invaluable in all phases of your career. Also, take advantage of available literature; the FDA, CDC, and WHO all have extensive libraries of documents, standards, papers, and general info that is available to the public.
What the outlook for job prospects in your field?
Excellent! Pharmaceutical microbiologists are always in demand, all over the country. Every biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device company needs well educated and experienced microbiologists, and there never seems to be enough of them. Candidates with an education in microbiology and an understanding of aseptic processing are especially sought after. Given those two attributes, candidates will typically have their choice of where they want to work; rather than having to take the first/best offer, candidates with these skills are in control and able to select the positions and locations they want.
What is your one piece of career advice for the next generation of microbiologists?
Do not be passive about your career; there are opportunities to learn at every stage, but you have to be actively engaged in your own professional development to further your career. For example, do not wait for an employer to impart all of the knowledge and skills necessary for a job; actively seek out that information and engage in self-directed learning.
What was the last picture you took on your phone?
The last picture I took on my phone was of our dog, Camilla, at a "dock diving" event in Greenville SC. A local dog-training facility had put on a demonstration of dock diving; it's a competitive event where a dog leaps off a dock into a pool, competing for distance and/or height. The demonstration was open to the public, and they offered novices one free jump to try it out. The dogs that are typically involved in this sport and do well are young retrievers and other athletic breeds. Our Camilla is neither young, nor a retriever, nor athletic! She is a shelter rescue, a 10-year old mixed breed (pitbull and bullmastiff maybe?), very sweet, large, and lazy. I got up on the dock with her and walked to the edge of the platform, we both knew she wasn't going to leap, but she loves the water and actually did a slow roll off the edge into the pool. Her official distance was 1.5 inches, height was 0.0 (we didn't win any medals), but it was a hot day and she enjoyed the pool. In fact she wouldn't get out, kept paddling around in circles much to the delight of the audience. So the most recent picture I have on my phone is of Camilla, dogpaddling around in a competitive dock jumping pool.