headshot of emma groarke
NHLBI Celebrates Women Scientists

Emma M. Groarke, M.B., FRCPath


As a child, Emma M. Groarke, M.B., FRCPath, knew she would become a doctor. Yet, she was also fascinated by the detective work of forensic scientists on television. Think Dana Scully from X-Files.     

“Interestingly, I still ended up being somewhat of a pathologist,” Groarke says. “Hematology and pathology are closely related.”       

Groarke, who is an attending hematologist and physician researcher in the Hematopoiesis and Bone Marrow Failure Laboratory at NHLBI, now integrates investigative research into her clinical work to help people living with a variety of blood disorders.     

She’s heartened by years of research that have led to innovative therapies, such as for leukemia, a blood cancer. She’s also guiding natural history studies, such as for clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP), a result of a mutation in blood cells, to support future treatments. CHIP mutations are associated with leukemia, but more surprisingly have also been linked with normal aging and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.    

For new conditions like VEXAS syndrome, an inflammatory disorder, she’s hopeful about developing research. Through a first-ever clinical trial, she and other NIH researchers will study how a bone marrow transplant may alleviate the disease’s symptoms – such as rashes, fevers, and blood cancers – and its underlying cause: a UBA1 gene mutation.    

And while Groarke has tangible periods that guide her research into a variety of blood conditions, including telomere biology disorders and aplastic anemia, a type of bone marrow syndrome, she and her colleagues also think about future ways to support patients.    

For example, they are currently studying if they can identify potential risk factors for cancer, like shared genetic mutations, among people with inherited blood disorders. Could that information then be used in blood tests to support early risk-detection? This type of research is preliminary, Groarke says, but it keeps her thinking about translational aspects of research.    

And that’s critical, she notes, because of her deep connection to her patients. “The patient relationship is so important in hematology,” Groarke explains. “These are patients that you treat over time and for serious conditions, like leukemia and lymphoma.”   

Her advice for younger students considering a similar career is to get early hands-on experience, while keeping an open mind.    

Originally from Ireland, Groarke was initially interested in becoming an infectious disease physician in medical school and for part of her residency. But after completing a three-month rotation in hematology, she switched to hematology. “I went with my heart,” she says.    

Now, Groarke uses her medical training in both fields to support patients who often share similar immunological and hematological characteristics.      

She encourages others picking a specialty or deciding about a career in research, clinical care, or both, to consider their interests and priorities.    

“There is not only one way to approach disease,” she adds, reflecting on her early fascination with different fields. “There are many ways to approach medicine.”     

To learn more about Groarke’s research, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/science/hematopoiesis-and-bone-marrow-failure