KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The votes have been counted! Out of hundreds of entries, Dr. Jennifer Winbigler has been named the Remarkable Women 2022 winner. Here is her story.
Dr. Jennifer Winbigler of Blount County never stops. She’s a COVID-19 researcher, a loving wife and mother who works overnight often and all day helping others.
She delivers COVID tests to Sam Houston Elementary School on her day off. It’s one of the many schools in 18 school districts across the state of Tennessee that she helped to apply for and receive COVID grant money for free testing, volunteering her time and resources throughout the pandemic.
Maryville Schools’ Health Coordinator Heather Ledbetter said, “before we had our COVID grant, she called me and said, ‘I will give you the testing, if it means keeping kids in school, I will give you the testing. I will take care of you.’ “
Even pre-pandemic, Jennifer went above and beyond to provide health care in local schools as her husband Brian proudly noted in his nomination of her as a Remarkable Woman.
“In 2018,” he said, reading the nomination to us, “she partnered with Alcoa City Schools to provide no-cost medical services. The clinic is run like a non-profit with any monies generated going back to fund expanded services.”
Dr. Winbigler said, “being a mom and a physician , truly the whole thing stemmed from me wanting to keep my own children safe and me wanting to keep my children’s teachers safe and me wanting to keep my community safe.”
Next stop: the main office at Blount County Schools where she delivers 300 COVID tests for its drive-thru testing for teachers and administrators. Mind you, all of this is in the middle of Dr. Winbigler’s day. The Winbiglers offer an on-site vaccine clinic at Tranzonic companies which employs 200 people. It manufactures cleaning products- an essential service during COVID, and needed everyone on the job.
Many like Corey McCarty weren’t sure about the vaccine at first. “I did have a little bit of a hesitation.”
“Jennifer actually did one-on-one sessions with people that didn’t want to ask questions in a public setting.”
Tranzonic Vice President Brian Rhodes said, “we actually had 55 people that day sign up,” he said.
McCarty said, “once I understood the research and everything like that, it pushed me towards getting the actual shot.”
Dr. Winbigler had an important role in helping the Covid-19 vaccine become a reality through her work as a clinical trial sub-investigator at the Knoxville office of the New Orleans Center for Clinical Research.
Her expertise was sought out by Dr. William Smith.
“She has the energy to do what was needed plus a lot of extra,” he said.
Right before lunch time, she hits the gym, never dropping that welcoming smile.
Christy Phelps, The Steel Room co-owner, said, “she comes in here to work out and she brings her sunshine and her energy and gets the job done and then scurries off about her business saving the world basically one COVID case at a time.”
Post-workout, it’s family time. Jennifer arranges her schedule to allow her to pick up her sons from school 4 out of 5 days a week. She coaches their soccer team, even serves as her sons’ elementary school mascot, Rocky the Raccoon.
“I know my skill set,” she laughs, “or lack thereof, and I’m not crafty, I’m not organized, I can’t cook, so my skill set is pretty limited on what I can give to the PTO.”
Her sons Max, Wyatt, and Ayers clearly adore her.
The love she has for her family including her late father built the foundation for what this remarkable woman does for everyone everyday.
“Theres a lot to say. I couldn’t have done any of what I do without the support of him (Brian) and before him, my father and so I have a lot to thankful for, for how I’ve gotten here.”
And yet, the day is not done.
After hugs and good nights, she’s off to what she calls her real job, taking care of patients at Blount Memorial Hospital.
“As a physician, I’m a hospitalist. I take care of COVID patients on the floor. I have to put them on the ventilator, I have to tell them, ‘say goodbye to your family.’ So if I could prevent any of this before they got to the hospital, that’s where it stemmed from.”
Meet the nominees for Remarkable Women 2022
Stories about Remarkable Women nominees are shared each Tuesday in March on WATE 6 and online.