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Published in CenterView on November 04, 2013
Dr. Barbara Boss, right, receives the DAISY award from her former student, Dr. Mary Stewart.
Dr. Barbara Boss, right, receives the DAISY award from her former student, Dr. Mary Stewart.

School of Nursing veteran receives inaugural faculty honor

By Matt Westerfield

As a nursing student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s, Dr. Barbara Boss had an intuition that she would need to earn a master’s degree after finishing her B.S.N.

At the same time, she knew she did not want to be a teacher.

“I didn’t know what I would do for my career, but I knew I would never teach,” Boss said. “I learned then to never say ‘never.’”

As it turns out, Boss has spent the last 34 years teaching at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing. As one of the school’s longest-serving current faculty members, she said she wouldn’t change a thing.

On Oct. 28, Boss, professor of nursing and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, was floored when her colleagues presented her with the school’s first DAISY Faculty Award during a quarterly organization meeting.

“I was seriously speechless. I didn’t see it coming and it never occurred to me,” Boss said during a surprise reception in her honor after the meeting. “I’m astonished that they pulled this all off, and I was totally clueless. It’s just overwhelming.”

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses was established by the Diseases Attacking the Immune System (DAISY) Foundation approximately 13 years ago as a way to honor the profound impact nurses nationwide have on their patients and patients’ families. The award was created by Seattle family members in memory of their son, who died from an auto-immune disease in 1999.

Through the Office of Nursing Excellence, UMMC has been awarding a DAISY Award to one nominated staff nurse every two months since January of 2010.

Recently, the DAISY Foundation acknowledged the lifelong impact that nursing faculty have on future nurses and sought to establish a way to single out their contributions as well. So the foundation created the DAISY Faculty Award, according to Dr. Mary Stewart, director of the Ph.D. program and special assistant to the dean.

Stewart said she was asked by the dean, Dr. Kim Hoover, to oversee the inaugural event, but Stewart also wanted to be part of an effort to give something back to Boss.

“People flocked to help, so my role was minor,” said Stewart, one of many current faculty members who had Boss as a teacher. “I am humbled to have had the honor of being there.”

A native of Baltimore, Md., Boss earned her B.S.N. in 1969 and practiced at the New England Medical Center in Boston before moving to the University of Florida to earn her master’s degree as a clinical nurse specialist. She stayed in Gainesville, working as a charge nurse and nursing supervisor, and a year later was offered a faculty position, something she said she would never do.

To her surprise, “I loved it,” she said. “That’s when I knew I had to go back and get my Ph.D.”

She completed her doctorate at the University of Florida in 1979 and interviewed at several institutions around the southeast before deciding to join UMMC’s School of Nursing.

Her reason for choosing the Medical Center?

“I didn’t want to go back up to the cold,” she said.

At least, that was part of the reason; the other was the opportunity to teach in a specialized field.

“Their master’s degree program (at the time) had specialty areas, so you could specialize in med-surg, or pediatrics, or psych-mental health,” Boss said. “A lot of the schools at the time had generic master’s degree programs.

“I wanted to teach at the master’s level in something that had a specialty area, and they had a position for the master’s program teaching med/surg. So I came here to do that.”

Boss said she soon adjusted to life in the deep South and came to love Mississippi. And at the School of Nursing, there was always a new challenge.

For example, she helped start the Nurse Practitioner Program, which prompted her to get a post-graduate certificate to become an adult and geriatric nurse practitioner. The school also developed the Ph.D. program, and in 2009, launched the D.N.P. program.

Boss cites retired faculty member Dr. Barbara Rogers and current faculty members Dr. Sharon Wyatt and Dr. Sharon Lobert as being instrumental in developing the doctorate programs.

Over the years, the school has grown rapidly, Boss said.

“When I came in 1979, everything was the B.S.N. program; that was the dominant program,” she said. “And everything was teaching.

“Then over the course of 30-something years, the programs have grown tremendously.

There’s much more variety. The number of entry points into programs and the diversity of the programs has massively increased.”

Boss said there were approximately five faculty members with Ph.D.s when she arrived; now, the majority of faculty members have doctorates. Additionally, the school’s focus on research and clinical practice has blossomed.

Now Boss is looking ahead to a new challenge: She’s planning to retire some time in the next year, saying she’s ready to try something new. She said she loves spending time outdoors and operates an animal sanctuary in Rankin County with co-owner Linda Brewer, also a nurse practitioner.

“It’s called Mother’s Grace Animal Sanctuary, and we’ve been a not-for-profit for six or seven years now,” she said, adding that at the moment, they care for mostly cats and dogs. “They keep us busy.”

In addition to the DAISY Faculty Award, the SON faculty presented Boss with a book of photos and anecdotes from co-workers and students, something to which Mary Stewart contributed.

“Other than my mom, Barbara Boss has been the most influential woman in my life,” Stewart said.

“From my time in graduate school to the present, she has been a professional cornerstone for me — and countless others.”