When asked her age upon initially deciding to pursue nursing as a career, Lorraine Frazier, who currently serves as the Distinguished Nancy B. Willerson Professor of Nursing at the University of Texas at Houston School of Nursing but will assume the deanship of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing on Oct. 1, doesn’t hesitate.
“I was about 11 years old when I decided to become a nurse,” she recalls. “We had just immigrated to the United States from Northern Ireland three years before my father was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis [a type of kidney disease in which the part of that organ that helps filter waste and fluids from the blood is damaged] in Houston. It was difficult time for my family. We didn’t understand the disease, the health care system and what the future held for us.
“So many families are confronted with health issues every day, and have difficulty understanding their disease and the health care system,” she added. “I wanted to have a career that enabled me to help patients and families to navigate the health care system and understand their physical condition, while helping to meet their psychosocial needs.”
With that goal still close to her heart, Frazier went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing science from the University of Oklahoma, then master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston. Her master’s degree focused on adults and gerontology in the nurse practitioner program. During her doctoral studies, she was awarded an Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health for the proposal, “Predicting hypertension using blood pressure reactivity.”
Today, in addition to serving on the UT School of Nursing faculty, where she continues to study clinical design methods of clinical research in cardiovascular disease, she holds a clinical appointment at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and the Texas Heart Institute as a senior clinical nurse scientist, where she recruits patients for her research and collaborates with a heart failure/heart transplant research team.
As a scholar and a funded National Institutes of Health researcher, she says both teaching and research are her passions.
The consistent theme of Frazier’s program of research is the exploration of biological and behavioral risk factors as predictors of outcomes in patients with cardiovascular disease. Her focus is on the genetic-environmental interaction of inflammation and depression on coronary outcomes in individuals with acute coronary syndromes and heart failure. Specifically, she studies the interaction of genetic risk alleles – an allele is one of two or more forms of a gene – and depression on levels of inflammatory proteins and subsequent cardiac events in patients with acute coronary syndrome.
Frazier also teaches emerging technology and genetics in the doctorate of nursing practice program and grant writing for faculty, as well as advises the doctoral students who assist her in her research. She counts her students’ and junior faculty members’ successes among her top accomplishments. Her most recent points of pride include a Ph.D. student who conducted research under her guidance and graduated this semester and a faculty member who received a minority supplement to work with her on her research, both of whom have been accepted to the Summer Genetic Institute at the NIH.
Frazier also directs the university’s biobank, which currently boasts 135,000 biological samples and corresponding clinical data and incorporates eight hospitals and six universities, and a national biobank consortium of participating Center for Clinical and Translational Science institutions across the nation. She says organizing the UT biobank has provided her with an amazing opportunity to share her research samples with investigators from other disciplines and institutions who have collaborated with her on genetic research.
“Our team has been funded to develop an informatics system to support sample and data sharing,” she said, adding, “I am privileged to be a part of an emerging team to develop a national consortium of biobehavioral research samples and data that will allow nursing and other disciplines to do more research on genetic and behavioral interactions.”
Frazier’s short-term goals are to finish her R01 grant, titled “Depressive Symptoms and Genetic Influences on Cardiac Outcomes,” and a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellowship. At the time of the interview, Frazier listed becoming a dean of a school of nursing, where she could exercise yet another passion of hers, leadership, as another goal – that one was fulfilled within a month.
Active on several professional fronts, she is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and of the American Heart Association and a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow and holds memberships in the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau International, the American Society of Human Genetics, the International Society of Nurses in Genetics and the American Heart Association, among others. She is a member of the American Heart Association Nursing Council and serves as the association’s communication chair for the Functional Genomics and Translational Biology working group. She also currently is chair of the Southern Region Educational Board Nursing Council’s Genetics Committee and represents the SREB on the National Coalition for Health Professional Education.
A well-rounded individual, Frazier has many outside interests, including camping, knitting, reading and watching mysteries.
Family provides grounding for this woman of many interests and talents. She calls her husband, David, her greatest support. The couple has what Frazier describes as “a perfect daughter.”
Noting that Molly has a genetic disability that will require continual care, Frazier says that her daughter “has taught us all what is important in life. She is always calm, loving and gentle.
“It is my goal that nursing graduates have the knowledge and technical and critical thinking skills needed for their career along with the integrity and perseverance needed to provide the best care to the most vulnerable of patients,” she adds. “Molly keeps me grounded in what the calling of nursing is all about.”
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