July 23, 2013

Is There a Doctor in the House?



On Friday, May 18, 2013 at approximately 10:30 a.m., when Dr. McGrorty was called to the stage to receive a hard-earned doctoral degree—two women stood up. An assistant professor in La Salle’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. Anne McGrorty became one of the first three graduates from the University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program. And at the same time, just a little farther down Broad Street, her daughter, Dr. Alison McGrorty, received her medical degree at TempleUniversity.

“My gift to my daughter is showing her the importance of loving your work—it never feels like work when you love what you do,” Anne said. Regardless of which Dr. McGrorty you’re referring to, “we are both dedicated to improving the health of children.”

Anne will continue the career in pediatric nursing she has cultivated over the past 35 years—and Alison will soon begin her residency in pediatric medicine at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

“This idea that there’s a line drawn in the sand between nurses and physicians, it doesn’t exist in my world,” Anne said. “I’ve been collaborating with physicians my whole life in nursing. One day, my daughter may be one of those physicians I collaborate with, and I hope she is.”

While each woman walked her own path to becoming Dr. McGrorty, the two traveled a parallel journey. “I was in a unique position where I wasn’t just a phone call away, I was down the hall,” Alison says. While she pored over medical textbooks in her upstairs bedroom, her mother churned out clinical research papers in the basement. Both women racked up an impressive number of clinical hours in the hospital—once even running into each other at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children while Alison was completing an infectious disease rotation and Anne was teaching a class of nursing students.

When they weren’t at the hospital during working hours, they were often there during visiting hours. In the midst of their studies, they unexpectedly found themselves on the other side of stethoscope when John (Anne’s husband and Alison’s father) discovered he had a brain tumor. “Suddenly the things we were talking about in my classes started to hit closer to home, and it gave me a new perspective,” Alison said. “It taught me how to look beyond the diagnosis and realize there is a face and a heart and a family there and that sometimes is more important than what the prognosis is.”

During this difficult time, the family clung to the “three Cs” that had always been an emphasis in their household—character, commitment, and courage. “A lot of times, people look at how tragedy is going to disable us, rather than how it’s going to enable us to do things better,” Anne said. “We survived as a family and encouraged each other to achieve our goals.”

A craniotomy removed John’s tumor and restored him to health, but the harrowing experience added a whole new dimension to Anne and Alison’s medical education. “It’s a challenge when you have to put yourself into that other role. I wasn’t the nurse there and Alison wasn’t the physician; quite honestly, we had to take a step back and let other people do their jobs,” Anne said. “Going forward, I think about my patients or their family getting the same news we did, and I know what that’s like. I’ve walked in their shoes. There were lessons we learned—not always the easy way—but, quite frankly, I’m glad we had the opportunity to learn them because it makes us better at what we do.”


-Colleen Mularkey, ’06



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