Sonia Simpson, manager of ambulatory operations at UMMC Grenada, oversees the COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
Sonia Simpson, manager of ambulatory operations at UMMC Grenada, oversees the COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
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People of the U: Sonia Simpson

Published on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

By: Ruth Cummins

Editor's Note: Front and Center is part of an ongoing series featuring UMMC's faculty, staff and students. See more Front and Center features.

Since January, Sonia Simpson has been working 12- to 14-hour days at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Grenada’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

It’s no wonder Simpson and her staff have given out more than 10,433 vaccines as of May 31 at the clinic, first located adjacent to the hospital on JK Avent Drive and then moved to its current location at 1300 Sunset Drive.

“That’s what it takes to get the job done,” said Simpson, manager of clinic operations. “We want to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Simpson and a dedicated team are administering the vaccine to both those making appointments and anyone who walks up. The most vaccines delivered in a day was about 400 back in January. “Now, we’re averaging 150-160,” she said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible.”

That includes working with the Grenada-area community, especially residents who don’t use computers or smart phones. “We’re in a more rural situation. Most of our population is elderly,” Simpson said. “They depend on their community doctors to get them signed up for the vaccine. We also will schedule them when they are already here in our clinics to see one of their doctors.”

Since Simpson joined the UMMC Grenada family in September 2015, “she has been the driving force behind our (dozen) clinics,” said John Farrish, the hospital’s director of ambulatory operations.

“Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person,’” Farrish said. “Perhaps that is why Sonia was tasked with standing up and overseeing our vaccine clinic. Sonia is no stranger to hard work, and she takes pride in the quality of work that she produces.”

Not just UMMC Grenada, but its sister hospital, UMMC Holmes County in Lexington, is making vaccines widely available to the community. The Grenada clinic is open 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays; the Holmes County clinic inside the hospital at 239 Bowling Green Road is open on Thursdays from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., with walk-ins added to a daily wait list should doses remain because of no-shows.

Simpson said she’s concerned that in recent weeks, the number of vaccines being given has decreased. “We have people who are on the fence, but we also have seen more young people coming in,” she said. “It’s good to see college-aged people being responsible.”

Simpson is reaching out to community leaders, civic groups and businesses to communicate the urgency of getting the vaccine. “We want to open up the conversation so that more people will take it,” Simpson said. “If your neighbor takes it, then maybe you will be inspired to take it.”

“I think it is safe to say that the past year has thrown us a few curve balls, but I will admit that without Sonia on our team, it would have been so much harder to respond to those curve balls,” Farrish said.

“Sonia’s intellect and years of clinic management experience coupled with our rock star staff have afforded us the ability to accomplish things while other organizations are still in the planning stages.”

Simpson is married to former Grenada Fire Chief Herman Simpson. They have a daughter, Jennifer Simpson, and one grandchild, Khloe Campbell. “She is my life,” Simpson said of Khloe. “She keeps me sane.”

In their spare time, Simpson and her husband like to catch a ball game. “Baseball, basketball – we are sports enthusiasts,” she said.

Since COVID-19 hit more than a year ago, Simpson said, getting residents tested and vaccinated “has become my life in a lot of ways.

 “This is not the time to slow down,” Simpson said. “We want to get as many people in the community vaccinated as possible.” 

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