Jennifer Hawkins Randle was shocked when she found out she’d been nominated as one of the four finalists for Remarkable Women of the Mid-South.
Jennifer runs the clinical laboratory at the Shelby County Health Department. Those who know her say she puts her heart and soul into her work overseeing the lab.
You might say that every day Jennifer shows up to work, she’s making a contribution to public health.
But one remarkable achievement could help save lives long past her tenure here — she developed the county’s first and only needle disposal program.
She began her research on needle disposal programs a while back, but an incident at work two years ago would be the fuel she needed to light a fire under her idea to start one in Shelby County.
“Once, I was accidentally stuck with the needle. I experienced what that family was talking about. The agony of waiting,” she said. “When I was stuck with that needle, I felt that agony and I’m in the health care field and I do HIV testing every day. so going through that I really just jumped on it.”
She endured eight years of government bureaucracy trying to get a county-sanctioned needle disposal program off the ground.
That tenacity impressed her boss at the time, Stephen Gooch, so much so that he nominated her as a Remarkable Woman.
For $5, you can pick up the disposal kit and bring it back with your used needles for the county to dispose. The program pays for itself and is useful to diabetics and others who must give themselves or their pets injections at home. They no longer have to throw used needles in the trash and risk exposing others to needle sticks.
“It’s a low percentage from actually catching HIV from that stick but you don’t know that. That’s why you go through a certain protocol,” she said.
Jennifer retires this June, but the program that she built will be around for years to come. It’s a program developed out of her own pain and passion for the good of the community she loves.