Story by Sarah Marshall on 04/22/2019Dr. Laura Brosch never envisioned becoming a nurse - in fact she told her mother she would never become a nurse, or for that matter join the military. Now, more than 40 years later, after 26 years as a decorated Army nurse and 10 years as an Army civilian, Brosch has made an impact in her field and has followed in the footsteps of her mother, an accomplished critical care nurse. Brosch hopes to continue making a difference as USU's new Assistant Vice President for Research Initiatives and Compliance.
Brosch said her mother, Gloria, embodied selflessness and touched many lives. Her mother came to America from Jamaica to become a nurse and serve the Army in World War II. She joined the Army Cadet Nursing program, however, the war ended before she graduated. Throughout her career as one of the first intensive care nurses in Toledo, Ohio, Brosch's mother had a way of nurturing and mentoring young nurses who worked for her and the physicians who worked with her. Whenever her mother described a "success," it never had to do with what she had done that day it was always about what others accomplished, Brosch said.
"She cared about what other nurses went on to accomplish. Those were the successes she would talk about," Brosch said.
After her passing, Brosch got an even closer look at what an incredible impact her mother had on others. Many people spoke at her funeral about how she had inspired them to pursue higher education, achieve their goals and one person even noted how her mom empowered him to get a heart transplant.
Brosch began her own nursing career by earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the DePaul University in Chicago in 1974. The more she learned about nursing, the more she wanted to continue to grow as a nurse. She went on to earn her Master of Science Degree Nursing in 1978 from the University of Illinois at Chicago, before working as a transplant nurse practitioner at the Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center and the University of Chicago.
At that time, transplants weren't nearly as advanced as they are today, practically every transplant surgery was "research," she said. That became her first experience with true patient advocacy, as well as her first real taste of research and she loved it. She was able to combine those passions with her desire to do more for patients, and began to delve even further into transplant care by conducting research, writing and publishing articles and book chapters. This led her to attendance at a Eurotransplant meeting in Holland, where she fell in love with Europe, and decided she would find a way to live and work there. Around that same time, Brosch had a friend who had joined the Army Nurse Corps and was serving in Germany. Her friend encouraged Brosch to take the leap and join the Army on the condition that she would be given a European assignment. That was all she needed to hear to pique her interest in joining the military something else she never imagined she would do, yet she found herself meeting with a recruiter in 1983, and signed on for three years with the Army.
From 1983 to 1984, Brosch was assigned as a clinical staff nurse at the Medical-Surgical Ward at the 130th Station Army Hospital in Heidelberg, West Germany. She then served as an assistant head nurse in the hospital's Emergency and Outpatient department, until 1985, and then worked as a chief nurse at the U.S. Army Health Clinic in Mannheim, West Germany, until 1987. Not only did she fulfill her dream of living in Europe, she discovered how closely the Army's values lined up with her own. She went on to serve for 26 years, retiring as a colonel in 2009.
Throughout her tenure in the military, she was fortunate to have another opportunity to work with transplant patients, as the head nurse of the Transplant Unit at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Later, the Army selected her to pursue a PhD in nursing/health services research at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. As a military nurse scientist, she served as the chief of Nursing Research at Walter Reed and the Nursing Research Consultant to the Army Surgeon General.
In 2002, Brosch became the director of the Office of Research Protections (ORP) at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland. The ORP provided human subjects protections and animal welfare regulatory oversight for research conducted by many Army and Department of Defense organizations, as well as for extramural research conducted in more than 60 countries and more than 1,600 institutions.
At ORP, Brosch was instrumental in establishing the first Human Research Protection Program for a combat theatre of operations. That program permitted military researchers to conduct studies during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in full regulatory compliance. These studies resulted in changes in combat casualty care that are implemented world-wide in trauma care today. Brosch also was a member of a coalition that established the Joint Combat Casualty Care Research Teams that deployed to conduct these studies. She also established processes to obtain Secretarial-level approvals necessary for the DoD to support civilian pre-hospital emergency care research with a waiver of informed consent. The DoD has been able to support 17 of these FDA-approved civilian clinical trials over the past 14 years.
After retiring from active duty in 2009, she continued to serve in the same position as a federal civilian, up until this year when she joined USU. But she is no stranger to USU and its mission.
Brosch has interfaced with the university and its researchers over the years, giving many lectures on campus. Now, as the new Assistant Vice President for Research Initiatives and Compliance, she is responsible for ensuring the regulatory compliance of USU's Human Research Protections Program, the Institutional Review Board, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institutional Biosafety Committee and the Human Anatomical Material Review Committee. She will also develop and support new research initiatives to support and operationalize translational research.
For Brosch, being in this position is like coming back to her "roots," having the chance to be more hands-on in research again, and being more involved with students and faculty with the design and implementation of research protocols.
"Success, for us, is a completed study in full compliance," she said. "I hope to make a positive difference, here, and to continue to help train the next generation of researchers and scientists."
And she noted, "Never say never to your mother."