Tamara Lynn Baker Memorial Nursing Scholarship

Tamara Baker's familyTamara Lynn Baker, the third of four Baker girls, was born at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, on January 25, 1957. Tamara’s journey was to be very different from those of her three sisters. Born with a leg-length discrepancy, scoliosis, and neurofibromatosis, many people assumed she thought of herself as disabled. As her youngest sister, Martha, knew this was far from the truth. Tamara met the world head on and never noticed her differing physical abilities unless they were pointed out by those who didn’t know how incredible she was. She won over everyone she met with her engaging smile and genuine love of life as she ran and biked alongside her siblings and peers.

In 1969, at the age of 12, Tamara’s neurofibromatosis attacked her spine and hip, causing these bones to soften, resulting in a massive spinal surgery at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She was placed in a full spinal cast with halo traction for six months and later graduated to a walking cast for four more months allowing her spine to fuse to the new metal implants.

At the age of 15, the world became a little harder for this amazing young woman when another tragic event occurred. Her parents were sadly taken from her and her three sisters due to a senseless crime. This loss was especially devasting for Tamara, as she had lost her strongest advocate, her amazing mother, Patricia Anne, who never stopped seeking and securing the best medical care for her daughter. 

Tamara overcame these tragedies and obstacles by enrolling in extra classes and summer school to earn back the year she lost due to her spinal surgery. Tamara’s perseverance allowed her to graduate from Callaway High School with her original classmates and attend college courses both at Hinds Junior College, and her mother’s alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi. It was during these years that she also became an active member of the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, which brought her a sense of inner peace rooted in her growing faith.   

On December 4, 1979, at the age of 22, Tamara’s neurofibromatosis moved to her hip, causing it to break and sever a major nearby artery that resulted in her immediate and untimely death. The physicians and nurses who tried to revive her said she passed away quickly and in peace, something she had not had for quite a while. Tamara was a remarkable young woman, who had been walking this earth in severe pain for a very long time. Unfortunately, this information had not been shared by Tamara with her immediate family and was revealed by the coroner after her passing. 

With the gracious gift of her beautiful life, Tamara influenced her sister, Martha, to earn a degree in nursing and devote her life to helping others, as she had seen first-hand the healing art and science of medicine through her sister’s eyes. For the nursing students who receive this scholarship, the hope is they will take the time to walk alongside their patients and their families, focus on their many gifts and abilities and help them navigate their way through the medical world. Some may be lost and on their own and need their nurse to be their advocate. By doing this, these nurses will remember and honor young Tamara.

The Tamara Lynn Baker Memorial Nursing Scholarship was established in 2021 by Martha and Victor Watson, Tamara’s youngest sister and her husband. This endowment will support undergraduate nursing students with financial need. Preference will be given to a military spouse or spouse of a veteran. 

To make a gift to the Tamara Lynn Baker Memorial Nursing Scholarship, complete and submit the form below. If you have any questions, please contact Melissa Mireles, School of Nursing Director of Development, at (210) 567-5534.

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