Dr. Sally Pearson never imagined her epiphany would impact so many lives.

Scott Tollison, provost & vice president of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Sally Pearson

Pearson also never envisioned she would become a teacher. But that all changed in 2000 when Pearson was working as an orthopedic nurse at Columbus Orthopedic Clinic and attended an Orthopaedic Nurse Practitioner review course.

That “light bulb” moment set off a chain of events that has impacted the Mississippi University for Women’s nursing program for the last 20-plus years.

“I realized in that meeting that I wanted to be a nurse practitioner.” Pearson said. “It felt like a true a calling.”

On May 5, The W recognized Pearson’s 21 years of service to the school by awarding her emerita faculty status. The honor punctuates a career that saw Pearson work as a professor in the BSN and Graduate Nursing programs. She received her BSN, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and received her MSN and DNP at The W.

“We had a great team of faculty and a good group of people to work with in both programs,” Pearson said of her time at The W. “Iron sharpens iron. It was great to be around people who have special skills. I have learned so much, The W has some talented teachers.”

In December 2013, Pearson was one of five individuals to receive a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from The W. Those five were the first graduating class of the program, which was created to help advance healthcare in the state of Mississippi. Launched in January 2012, the DNP was The W’s first doctoral program.

“It was great,” Pearson said. “Dr. Sheila Adams came into a faculty meeting and told us that The W was starting this DNP program, so I said, ‘Well, why not, I can do anything for a year, so let’s see what this about.’”

Pearson said the year she spent earning the DNP degree was tough, but she said it added to her perspective. She said she uses that experience to help her students understand that there is much more than mastering clinical skills to being an effective nurse practitioner.

“Going through the DNP degree program helped me learn more about the political side of medicine and health care,” Pearson said. “It also broadened my perspective on health care in general and in terms of the financial, philosophical and global implications of health care.”

Pearson also enjoyed working as a Nurse Practitioner for many years in the W Student Health Center. “It was always fun and rewarding to care for other people on campus.”

In both the BSN and Graduate programs, Pearson said she had the most fun when she saw the proverbial “light bulb” come on for students. She said those moments of understanding enabled her to take the next step with the students.

“All of a sudden it made sense for the students and they could take that knowledge about how to be compassionate and caring with patients and be an even better caregiver,” Pearson said. “They could learn how to treat the whole patient, not just the disease.”

Pearson said that process continues for her today as she stresses a tenet that remains essential to being an effective caregiver. She said anyone can teach book knowledge, but it is vital for nurse practitioners to be empathetic and have the ability to relate to patients. If they can do that, Pearson said those light bulb moments will brighten patients’ days for years to come.

“It is important to teach nurse practitioners that they know a lot but there is still a lot that they don’t know,” Pearson said. “A good nurse practitioner is someone who knows their limits and continues to keep learning. It is important to develop relationships with other healthcare providers and access available resources to complete the care given.”

Another way Pearson shared experiences with her students was on mission trips to Kenya from 2015-2019. She said the objective was to expose nursing students to other types of medical care.

“We got to work in a school and medical clinic in a remote part of Kenya,” Pearson said. “We participated in caring for patients in satellite clinics and performed physicals for 300-400 students in the school. We did vision screenings for several years. Many of the students had poor vision with no ability to get glasses. One year we were able to work with a local Lion’s Club in Mississippi to get vision screening equipment that we took to Kenya. Once in Kenya we worked with a local Lion’s Club there and were able to get about 30 children’s glasses. That alone was life changing for them. Now the local Lion’s Club does the yearly screening and follow up for these impoverished students.”

Dr. Brandy Larmon, dean of the College of Nursing & Health Sciences, said Pearson will be missed.

“Dr. Pearson is an esteemed faculty member who worked in the BSN and the graduate programs in our college,” Larmon said. “She was a valuable part of any program she was a part of, as well as the Student Health Center. She has a wealth of experience and valuable knowledge that will be impossible to replace, but we know she will enjoy her time traveling!”

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.