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Dr. Jessica Bailey, the first woman to serve as dean of SHRP and a graduate of the school, is retiring after nine years in the role. Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications
Dr. Jessica Bailey, the first woman to serve as dean of SHRP and a graduate of the school, is retiring after nine years in the role.
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SHRP Dean retires to accept dream job: full-time grandmother of six

Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2022

By: Andrea Wright Dilworth, awdilworth@umc.edu

Dr. Jessica Bailey’s dad could not have imagined what his career advice would mean for his daughter. 

He’d insisted that she pursue “this new career opportunity for women” called medical record administration, now known as health informatics and information management.  

So she did. As a 10th grader, she started working in a hospital medical records department in her hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. Later, as a student in SHRP’s health information management program, she transitioned into a similar role at the now defunct Doctors Hospital. 

“I wanted to work in a hospital and run a medical records department,” she said. “I achieved that goal upon graduation from SHRP” when her boss left for another job. Bailey was just 21.  

“When I began my career at Doctors Hospital, I was often the only female in the room among physicians and hospital administrators,” she said. “That never bothered me or intimidated me.” 

Some 40-plus years later, Bailey’s career has come full circle, as she retires today as dean of the school where she earned her first degree.   

“I never dreamed I’d be dean of a school,” said the Gluckstadt resident. “The irony is that during my PhD program, my colleagues would ask me what my ideal job would be, and I told them returning to Mississippi and being the dean of SHRP.”  

Turns out that dream was about as far-fetched as the earlier one she’d spoken into existence. But it didn’t happen overnight. 

Six years after landing that job, Bailey’s husband Ty, the high school sweetheart whom she’d married on spring break of her senior year at UMMC, got a promotion that required them to move out of state.   

“I went kicking and screaming to Topeka, Kansas,” she said. “After crying for 18 months, I learned to love it and love the people there.” 

After the tears dried up, she took a job as program director of health information technology at Washburn University.  

A decade after that move, Ty, who worked for Shelter Insurance, was promoted again, this time to the home office in Columbia, Mo.   

“It was a great place for my boys to grow up and for me to get my graduate degrees,” she said.  

Dr. Jessica Bailey with her sons and husband after graduating with a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2001.
Bailey with her sons and husband after graduating with a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2001.

Now mother to Andrew and Simon, Bailey earned a master’s and doctorate from University of Missouri-Columbia, both in educational leadership and policy analysis, with the former focusing on adult and higher education, and the latter on higher and continuing education.   

“I started teaching night classes while working during the day at the hospital and found out I liked my night job better than my day job,” said Bailey. “All the women in my family were teachers, except me, so I guess that was in my DNA – just hidden for a while.”  

While in Columbia, Bailey became an academic, taking on several roles at three colleges, including research specialist, faculty member, administrative curriculum consultant and fellowship associate.  

Finally, 17 years after leaving Mississippi, the call came that would bring her back home.  

“While living in Missouri, one of my former teachers from SHRP called me and asked if I would ever consider returning to UMMC to teach and I said, ‘When can I come?’ I had always wanted to return to Mississippi, and the offer came at just the right time in my life to accept it.” 

Ten years after accepting an assistant professorship of health informatics and information management, and promotions every year or so, the deanship had been spoken into existence.  

And after serving as dean for nine years, Bailey is reflecting on her impact. 

“I don’t consider myself having a legacy,” she said. “I have, however, been honored to serve as the first female dean who is also a graduate of SHRP. Part of my heart will always remain at SHRP.”  

Dr. Angela Burrell, who has been named interim dean effective June 1, met Bailey as a newly hired SHRP adjunct 12 years ago and says her mentor and friend has surprised her in more ways than one.  

Angela Burrell
Burrell

“Most people don’t know that she has this amazing whistle, the type that requires you to place two fingers in your mouth and blow,” said Burrell. “It is a very effective way of grabbing a crowd’s attention and surprising to see come out of her. I’m jealous that I do not have the skills to do this.” 

Burrell, associate professor and chair of the Doctor of Health Administration Program, considers Bailey’s tenure as dean transformative.  

“Most people on campus do not fully appreciate the diversity of faculty expertise and accreditation processes that are required to offer and maintain the programs in this school,” she said. “Dr. Bailey exposed me to the intricacies of SHRP and UMMC. When I became chair of the Department of Health Administration, she served as my mentor and advisor. Her soft speech and calming motherly personality have helped me through many challenging days.” 

Bailey said one of the things she is proudest of is that SHRP has been awarded continued accreditation of all its programs by nine different accrediting agencies under her leadership. Unlike other schools, SHRP is constantly getting ready for an accreditation site visit, or just completing one, she said.  

“This is no small task,” Bailey admits. “I have had the luxury of having an excellent leadership team and dedicated department chairs and faculty who make sure we are providing the best education environment to our students every day. I am certain I have had the most committed faculty on campus.”  

Bailey "hoods" Dr. Juanyce Taylor in front of her grandparents at her 2012 graduation party.
Bailey "hoods" Dr. Juanyce Taylor in front of her grandparents at her 2012 graduation party.

Dr. Juanyce Taylor, chief diversity and inclusion officer, said she and Bailey connected instantly when they met 14 years ago while serving on the Institutional Assessment Committee. Two years later, Bailey would serve on her dissertation committee as an external member, later hiring her as a faculty member and then, as assistant dean of research and innovation.   

“I can remember her words clearly when she called me: ‘I have watched you, I know your skills, and I know you can do this job,’” Taylor remembered.  

Bailey’s legacy is her advocacy, said Taylor. “She is an advocate for allied health professions and always made sure these professions received the recognition they deserved and the resources faculty needed to train SHRP students. She doesn’t mind speaking up and speaking out. 

When Taylor was awarded a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, she asked Bailey to partner on the project, in which nine house officers participated in community conversations with those living in underserved communities and among vulnerable populations.   

“We were mostly in the Georgetown community on late afternoons, and she was at every single session, oftentimes the first one at the site. She captured every detail of the conversations,” said Taylor. 

Her advocacy extends beyond the job, said Taylor, who has a 2012 photo of Bailey hooding her, but it wasn’t from the ceremony when she received her doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.  

“It was at my graduation party,” Taylor explained. “Dr. Bailey thought it would be fitting to hood me in the presence of my grandparents, other family members and friends that were not able to make the commencement ceremony earlier that day. 

“I will miss her dearly. She is a dear and trusted colleague, and very good friend. We have very, very deep conversations about things many may feel uncomfortable discussing but our friendship is genuine, so I never had to worry where I stood with her. She is family to me.” 

Joey Granger
Granger

Dr. Joey Granger, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor of physiology and biophysics and dean, School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, believes Bailey’s legacy is one of a commitment to excellence and focus on quality educational programs.  

“When Jessica took over as dean, she faced a lot of challenges,” said Granger, also director of the Cardiovascular-Renal Research Center and the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research. “She rose to the occasion and transformed SHRP into a school with high-quality degree programs. She set high standards for her faculty and students and was fair to everyone she interacted with.” 

Easton, Turner, Liv, Addie and Landon – Dr. Bailey’s grandchildren – relax on their grandparents’ back porch. Her sixth grandchild, a boy named Campbell, was born May 24.
Easton, Turner, Liv, Addie and Landon – Dr. Bailey’s grandchildren – relax on their grandparents’ back porch. Her sixth grandchild, a boy named Campbell, was born May 24.

In addition to being friends, Granger said he and Bailey were surprised to learn that two of their grandchildren were not only in the same class at school, but good friends.  

This coincidence brings to mind the key reason why Bailey is retiring: her grandchildren.   

“We are blessed to be a big part of their lives,” said the grandmother of six, who range in age from 9 to a newborn. “I am most looking forward to traveling with my husband, having unrestricted time with my 91-year-old mother, spending more time playing with my grandchildren in Jackson and in Missouri, and reading a mountain of books of my choice.”