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Helping Women Move Forward: Sue Groth Promoted to Professor

  By Gianluca D'Elia
  Friday, July 14, 2023

Susan GrothAs she celebrates 30 years as part of the University of Rochester School of Nursing community, Susan Groth, PhD, WHNP-BC, FAANP was promoted from associate professor to the rank of full professor in Summer 2023.

Groth is an accomplished nurse scientist and women’s health nurse practitioner whose research focuses on the study of obesity and the behavioral, genetic, and environmental factors that contribute to this complex disease. Specifically, Groth focuses on weight gain among pregnant women and the long-term effects of that weight on both mothers and their children.

Her research has been funded by multiple organizations including the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as well as the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing, and the UR School of Nursing. Her research has included both prospective longitudinal studies, qualitative studies and intervention trials.

“To be recognized at this level in not only the research arena, but in scholarship, teaching and practice, is special to me,” said Groth, who earned her master’s (1993) and PhD (2004) at the School of Nursing and began her academic career here as a clinical instructor.


How did you develop an interest in your specialty area?

My role as a women’s health NP influenced my thinking and informed my research from the very beginning. My research focus grew out of my clinical practice, which I maintained until 2012.

In particular, I was influenced by my practice at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center, which serves underinsured and uninsured individuals. At this practice site, I created a gynecological practice, and what I especially noticed is tht when I weighed women at the time of a healthcare visit, they would say, “I gained all my weight when I had my babies, and I never lost it.” I heard that over and over, and as a result my research focus became gestational weight gain because women often experience excessive weight gain during pregnancy and this can contribute to long-term detrimental health effects.

Early in my research career, I concentrated on African-American women specifically, seeking to understand their views of weight gain, physical activity and diet during pregnancy. Later, I changed direction slightly to a broader population as I sought to examine more closely the cardiometabolic risk development during and after pregnancy that happens in conjunction with gestation weight gain and retention. We are looking to understand if the weight gained during pregnancy is the driving factor that affects their longer-term health, or if there are other factors associated with pregnancy that influence longer-term health.

What has been one of your most rewarding research opportunities?

Dr. Harriet Kitzman, former dean of research, was instrumental in the development, design and testing of a nurse home visitation program that became the basis for the Nurse Family Partnership, titled the "New Mother’s Study," conducted in Memphis, Tennessee, that utilizes home visits by nurses to socially disadvantaged women during pregnancy and for the first two years of a child’s life. That randomized controlled trial was conducted in the early 1990s. I used data from the early years for my dissertation work, looking at the gestational weight gain of African-American adolescent mothers.

The New Mother’s Study has had multiple data collection iterations and we are now collecting data at 30 years post intervention from mothers and their children. Dr. Kitzman passed away in March 2020, and shortly after her death we received notice of funding. Prior to her death she laid the groundwork so that I was prepared to serve as principle investigator for the University of Rochester with this iteration of the study. I consider it a privilege and incredible opportunity to continue the amazing work of Dr. Kitzman and this team as we learn more about how a nurse intervention with disadvantaged women at the vulnerable time of childbearing can alter the life-course of both the mother and her offspring.

What’s something you’d like readers to know about the nurse scientist role?

Nursing takes a holistic approach to life and health. I believe strongly in prevention, rather than solving a problem after the fact. I started as a clinician first, and as a nurse scientist, I have had incredible opportunity to apply my research knowledge. My goal is conduct research that can be applied back into clinical practice to improve how we provide care to our patients.

What makes your work meaningful to you?

From my perspective, if we don’t understand what’s happening physiologically, we are unable to determine how to intervene and improve the health of individuals. Research is a means to learn and discover what we don’t know and if whatever we learn can be used to improve the health of women across the lifespan, that is what is important to me.

What has it been like to support emerging researchers’ work as an advisor and mentor?

It is very rewarding to help someone move their research and thinking forward; to help them shape their conceptualization of a problem they’re trying to understand into something that yields a solid research project. I enjoy helping PhD students and postdoctoral associates take what they’ve done or learned, and apply it in a way that contributes to our knowledge and can be used to improve health.

It is also very exciting to support and mentor junior faculty as they develop their research — formulating their ideas and building their scholarship and research trajectories as they seek to achieve their own career goals.

Mentoring and bringing other people forward at this point in my career is one of the most rewarding and most important roles that I have.

What advice do you have for emerging or future nurse scientists?

  1. Focus on something you like and that is important to you. It has to be scientifically realistic and feasible, but you have to like it and care about it enough to stick with it.

  2. You’re going to hit failures and successes — sometimes more failures, sometimes more successes— but we can learn and grow from both.

  3. Accept serendipitous opportunities that come—the benefits may be amazing. Be open to taking advantage of all opportunities yet consider carefully.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Support from others is a major contributor to anyone’s success. I didn’t get to where I am on my own. It’s through the mentoring I received, the sharing of ideas, the support of others — which includes staff, team members, collaborators, other faculty, as well as family and friends — that this achievement is possible.

Learn more about the work of UR Nursing’s EmPATH (Equity for Parent-Child, Adolescent, and Transgenerational Health) research group.

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