Kenya Woods prepares for her shift in the phlebotomy lab. Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications
Kenya Woods prepares for her shift in the phlebotomy lab.
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Front and Center: Kenya Woods

Published on Monday, April 3, 2023

By: Danny Barrett Jr., dlbarrett@umc.edu

Photos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications

Kenya Woods’ typical day as a student and full-time certified phlebotomist at UMMC is a study in sacrifice.

A 10-hour shift in the pathology lab drawing blood and helping physicians diagnose patients is sometimes followed by a catnap in her car – time and shift variations permitting. She then hoofs it to an eight-hour shift fulfilling her clinical lab duties as a senior in the Medical Laboratory Sciences program in the School of Health Related Professions.

“From there, I go home, shower, get a bite to eat and get in the bed because I have to come back here for 8 p.m. – then do it all over again the next day,” Woods said. “Since I’ve been on this journey in health care, I haven’t been able to hang out with my family and friends. It’s just me and my dog, Bella.”

Her support system along the way has been the family-like staff at SHRP that extends all the pride of a beaming mama or papa when struggle turns to success.

“With limited sleep and a hectic schedule like many of our students who are currently working in their field of study, Kenya has made it to her clinical rotations while remaining resilient, dedicated and focused,” said Dr. La’Toya Richards, chair of the Medical Laboratory Sciences Department. “The entire MLS staff looks forward to her future endeavors.”

During her 20s, Woods, now 30, of Byram, earned an associate degree from Holmes Community College and her phlebotomy certificate after completing a short-term program at Hinds Community College. She worked a few years at Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield, then took on work in life insurance sales after her father died.

“When he died, all his expenses and everything like that mostly fell on me, at the age of 23,” she said. “I decided to start selling life insurance as another source of income so I can tell others to not wait to get covered. Don’t put it off because you never know what life will throw at you.”

Such single-minded focus will soon result in a bachelor’s degree that figures to open doors to career advancement. Her vision of life as a degreed health care worker is clearer by the day.

“The payoff will be that I’ll be able to pay my mortgage, explore the world and live comfortably without having to work multiple jobs like I’ve done in the past,” she said.

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