Jennifer Domm, MD, MSCI
Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist & Medical Director
Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics
Finding joy in the journey could be Jennifer Domm's professional and personal motto.
As a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, she forms incredibly strong bonds with patients and families, even while knowing that not every child will survive. Those relationships, she noted, do not end even if a loved patient dies.
"The most challenging part of the job, of course, is suffering, death and dying," she said. However, she continued, "I can make the journey through this diagnosis the best it can be. My role is to help families through the good and the bad and support them through difficult decisions. I am very fortunate to have found something I love."
Growing up in Long Island, Domm wasn't sure exactly what field would spark that passion but knew it would somehow relate to science or math. "I tried out many different areas throughout my undergraduate career and felt most at home when I was working with people," she said. "I truly felt a draw to help people and found that the best way I could put my strengths to work was to directly interact with patients and their families as a physician."
Having vacationed in Nashville with her family during childhood, she had fond memories of the area and was excited to be accepted to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Throughout her training at Vanderbilt, Domm said she found herself connecting with pediatricians, and specifically those in pediatric hematology and oncology.
"The late Dr. John Lukens, a pioneer in pediatric oncology, was an early and consistent mentor, as was Dr. James Whitlock," she said of two role models during her training. Another influence throughout her career has been mentor, and now partner, Haydar Frangoul, MD. "I have always tried to mirror their dedication, empathy, work ethic, and enthusiasm," she said.
In 2015, Domm and Frangoul left Vanderbilt to establish the pediatric hematology/oncology and stem cell transplant program at The Children's Hospital at Tri-Star Centennial. Domm said she is invigorated by how rapidly the field is changing. "Standard of care practices are quickly evolving with new drugs and new technology to treat primary disease," she pointed out. Domm is particularly excited about new options for stem cell transplantation, including haploidentical transplant that allows for half-matched bone marrow transplants in the wake of advances in immune suppression, chemotherapy protocols and supportive care to minimize rejection and infection.
Such advances mean more happy endings. "The absolute best part of the field is the enduring relationships that I establish with patients and their families," she said. "I love to see the children grow and build their own lives." Those lifelong connections mean Domm has been to many fundraisers, end-of-chemo parties, graduations, and weddings. "Sometimes these patients pursue careers in medicine themselves," she continued, "and I am always excited about being their mentor. It's fun because then you have a relationship with them that is different from doctor/patient."
Just as she explored a number of fields and interests before finding her niche, Domm said the best advice she can give to those she mentors is to seek out as many different experiences and opportunities as possible to find the best match. "Medicine is a lifestyle and not just a career or job," she noted. "It is imperative that you choose something that your are passionate about and love to do."
Her passion lies with continuing to build the pediatric hematology/oncology program at The Children's Hospital at TriStar Centennial, including a goal of expanding the stem cell program by offering transplant to both malignant and non-malignant patients. "I would also like to expand pediatric patients' access to unique clinical trials through the relationship we have with Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute," she said.
When she isn't working or with patients and families, Domm looks for joy in her own journeys - which often take her across the globe to experience new places and cultures. "I love to explore unusual destinations," she said of vacations planned. "My most recent trip was to the Southeast Asian island country of Sri Lanka."
A seasoned traveler, Domm knows not every destination is idyllic ... whether traversing a foreign country or navigating cancer ... but there is beauty in every journey.