Trailblazer Spotlight: Maureen Groer, executive director
Maureen Groer’s journey to becoming a nurse scientist started when she was just a little girl.
Groer, distinguished professor and executive director of the Bio-behavioral Research Laboratory, was enjoying summer camp, gearing up for fourth grade, when she fell ill. She spent the next weeks bedridden and hospitalized, battling polio. She was one of 38,000 cases in 1954, the year before the poliovirus vaccine was finally distributed.
Nurses were tired from the polio epidemic, but they didn’t show it. Groer remembers the team of nurses that cared for her and ultimately, led her to recovery. She recuperated, but her life was changed forever.
From that point on, she knew she wanted to be a nurse. After graduating high school, she started nursing school and worked as a pediatric nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital. There, she cared for young children just as she had dreamed. Over time, her interest in biology and pathology grew.
Eventually, she started school again at the University of Illinois and graduated with her doctorate degree in physiology and biophysics in 1975. While there, she discovered her passion for research and realized how many patients she could help through lab findings.
In 1980, she honed her research interests at the University of Tennessee and got her master’s degree in psychoneuroimmunology, the relationship between stress and the human immune system.
Shortly after, Groer started receiving major grants and funding for her research focused on the effects of stress in mothers related to post-partum depression and the immune system, breast milk and infant health.
In 2006, Groer was an expert in the field and started at the USF College of Nursing.
By 2009, Groer transformed the college’s storage room into one of the top nursing labs in the country. She worked with architects to design and officially bring the Bio-Behavioral Research Laboratory to life. Today, the two thousand square foot lab includes many state-of-the-art machines.
It’s where Groer has spent the last decade collaborating with colleagues and researching life-long health effects in pre-term babies.
Her research hasn’t slowed. Over the last eight years, Groer won major grants to study premature babies. She’s also been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the last two decades. In 2021, she was named USF’s Distinguished University Professor.
She hopes more researchers and students will see the lab for the endless opportunities it holds. “Our scientists are very willing to help you think through your projects and how we can help,” she said.
With each researcher and nursing scientist, Groer’s legacy will live on at the College of Nursing.
Story by Cassidy Delamarter
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