Dr. Pam Farris is the nurse manager of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
Dr. Pam Farris is the nurse manager of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
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Front and Center: Dr. Pam Farris

Published on Monday, March 25, 2024

By: Rachel Vanderford,

Photos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications

Dr. Pam Farris’s name is synonymous with the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center after three decades of reassuring patients, mentoring nurses and satisfying her own curiosity about improving patient care and treatment.

Farris is retiring March 29 after an illustrious 30-year career with UMMC. She has been with the state’s sole program for providing bone marrow transplants since 1994. Her story is one of perseverance, passion and a relentless pursuit of excellence in hematology oncology.

Farris's journey at UMMC began when she earned her bachelor’s in nursing and MSN in nursing education from the very institution she would come to shape and elevate.

She first became interested in the budding science of hematology oncology while working in home health care for a few years before her return to UMMC. She said she was administering infusion treatments to patients at home, but she wanted to see the process from the beginning.  

Currently serving as the nurse manager of adult and pediatric bone marrow transplant, transplant-marrow program, apheresis and chemotherapy nursing, and the bone marrow transplant lab, Farris' impact extends far beyond her managerial role. Over three decades, she has nurtured the growth and development of the bone marrow transplant program at UMMC, growing it alongside the evolving field of hematology oncology.

“We used to only type patients’ blood for six levels,” Farris said. “Now we know there are over 12 types. That’s just the growth of the science and as it evolved, it just became part of what I wanted to do.

“To be involved in something so cutting-edge, this new science, was exciting for me but I also made sure that patients who went through this had the best nursing care they could possibly have,” she said. “As nurse manager, I could make sure (nurses) were trained, that they really wanted to do this job and that patients got the kind of care that I would want to receive.”

Driven by her innate curiosity, she pursued her PhD in nursing at UMMC, graduating in 2020—a testament to her unwavering commitment to improving patient outcomes.

Farris poses with members of her team.
Farris poses with members of her team.

Beyond her managerial duties, Farris has been a strong advocate for education and professional development, encouraging her staff to pursue advanced degrees. Of everything she has developed in the unit over the years, Farris said she is most proud of her nursing staff.

“The nurses that I’ve been able to keep and foster and grow and educate and raise up, that’s my proudest accomplishment” she said. “I believe in education. I think that’s the key to everything. I can’t tell you how many people I have encouraged to go back to school. I have raised so many nurse practitioners and educators. Not everybody is made to do this long term, but some are; and I try to find them, but I also try to foster education because that’s what we do here.”

George Doby, a nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, said that Farris has been a joy to work for. “She has been so approachable for any issues, both professional and personal,” he said. “She values her staff, and it shows. She took a chance on me over three years ago, knowing I had no experience with Bone Marrow Transplant. I was starting the MSN program here at UMMC. As time passed, I approached her with the proposition to become my mentor/preceptor. Her knowledge and insight have been truly invaluable in helping shape my perspective on being a leader. I will forever value her guidance and intend to keep in touch with her for future questions and ideas.”

Farris' legacy is one of research and innovation, as evidenced by her ingenuity within the bone marrow transplant unit. Her groundbreaking research on mobility in patients has not only improved patient safety but has also resulted in significant cost savings for the Medical Center. Farris hypothesized that hiring an exercise physiologist to work with patients before and after chemotherapy could benefit—or even be crucial to— their recovery.

At the time, most patients required rehabilitation services post-therapy because their muscles became deconditioned, or weakened. Modeling the cardiac model of care, Farris wanted to create a new position within the unit to help improve patient mobility.

“I didn’t need a physical therapist to teach them,” she explained. “I needed someone to evaluate the patient where they are and then prescribe them exercise to get them where they need to be for the procedure.”

Pam Farris, nurse manager of Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, hugs Kaitlin Chesser, a registered nurse in the unit.
Farris hugs Kaitlin Chesser, a registered nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

Farris said the best thing about working at the Medical Center is the relationships she has formed with her coworkers over the years. “I love these doctors and nurses,” she said. “They’re my friends, not just my colleagues. It’s just a great place where they care about patients and want to do the right thing.

“Pam has an unwavering commitment to quality improvement and to her nurses,” said Dr. Carolyn Bigelow, medical director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. “Most importantly she is committed to the patients on the bone marrow transplant unit.”

“The people that I work with are by far the best there is to offer, and I think that UMMC has that thing where people who want to make a difference come to work here,” Farris said. “I know that I make a difference every day that I walk through those doors. And I feel like every nurse and every physician that walks through those doors feels the same way. Some folks don’t have to have that, but some really want to make an impact. And I think those are the ones that work at UMMC.”

April Lampton, outpatient supervisor in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, said that after working in a few different locations, she ultimately decided to stay with BMT largely because of the support and guidance she got from Farris.

“I loved the passion she instilled in everyone for research and patient care and for really striving to be a better nurse,” she said. “My current position was a big brainchild of Pam’s. Pam has always been an advocate for her patients and wanted them to have somewhere safe to come after discharge so they could receive outpatient care with nurses that were familiar with their transplant process. I was one of the initial transplant nurses in this newly formed department that also assisted with Hem/Onc throughput in the hospital.

“By working with Pam in this position, we were able to grow the outpatient program and I became supervisor of the outpatient nurses to be able to help Pam in managing this department,” she said. “BMT was a well-oiled machine by the time I joined the team but under Pam’s leadership we have set ourselves up for more growth and to really be a powerhouse for cancer patients in the state. Pam is a legend at UMMC, and she will surely be missed in her management role. She has impacted so many lives as a leader that we hope to continue to grow her legacy with the knowledge that she has imparted on us.”

As Farris bids farewell to UMMC, her impact will continue to resonate, inspiring future generations of health care professionals. Farris’ daughter, Ashley Martin, the eldest of her four children, continues her legacy as a nurse, joining the RN-to-MSN program in May. Martin, school nurse at West Lincoln in Brookhaven, is getting her degree in education, just like her mom.

Though she is sad to leave her UMMC family, Farris said they haven’t seen the last of her because she will be back to visit. However, she hopes to be able to spend more time with her family.

Farris said she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life, even if it looks different than she might have imagined it.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my time,” she said. “My husband of nearly 40 years passed away in 2022. He was my person. He was the love of my life; and I didn’t think I could live without him, but I'm doing it. It’s a new me and I’m trying to figure out what I need to do. I do want to do something. I do have a PhD that I need to do something with.”