2022 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner Elizabeth (Eckert) Maher ’14

Monday, September 12, 2022

Rising Professional, College of Engineering, Letters, and Sciences

For Elizabeth (Eckert) Maher, Viterbo felt like the place she needed to be from the first time she stepped on campus.

“Professors and students who had never met me before smiled and said hello when I first stepped on campus for a tour,” she said. “Importantly, Dr. Ward Jones, then a biology professor at Viterbo, spent 45 minutes of his busy day, in between moving offices, to discuss if Viterbo was a good fit for me. This is one of many examples how the staff look out for the best interests of the students.”

Elizabeth (Eckert) Maher
Elizabeth (Eckert) Maher

The impression Eckert had that first visit held true, and the university served as a great launching pad for her.

“Viterbo’s strong science and math curriculum, faculty-student mentorship, and research opportunities were stellar,” she said. “Equally important were the values (inclusive of and beyond the Franciscan values), friendships, as well as the wisdom of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, all of which helped form me as a person. Cumulatively, these set me up for success professionally and personally.”

When Maher was near the end of her time at Viterbo, she was interested in using her scientific knowledge to improve patient lives, at that point focusing on epidemiology and mathematical modeling. Early in graduate school at the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, though, she shifted her focus toward “basic science and the translational space—the space between the lab bench and the bedside of the patient,” she said. “While my role and scientific focus has changed over time, the enjoyment and focus on the direct impact on patient care has remained consistent.”

Maher completed work on her Mayo doctoral degree in clinical and translational science in 2020. During her six years of patient-centered research at Mayo, she focused on developing and rationally combining novel cancer-killing viruses and immunotherapies. She enjoyed being the teaching assistant for the graduate level “Case Studies in Translation” course, mentoring multiple undergraduate students in biomedical research, and contributing to the FDA application for an investigational new device as an internship awardee.

These days, Maher is an ophthalmology medical science liaison (MSL) at Genentech (a member of the Roche group) in Rochester, where she lives with her husband, John.

In this role, she provides medical education, clinical trial support, pipeline presentations, and conference updates to retina specialists in her six-state territory. This includes working with physicians in rural South Dakota as well as urban physicians named to the list of “Top 100 Ophthalmologists” in the world.

With the goal of helping patients gain or preserve vision, she said she finds it especially meaningful to support retina specialists in areas where she’s lived including Wausau (her hometown), La Crosse, and Rochester.

On her team, she leads the training of onboarding MSLs and contributes to ongoing training in other therapeutic areas.

In addition to her work for Genentech, Maher has been involved in Brainwaves, a neuroscience education program for kids, and has been a presenter and attendee at a multiple myeloma support group.

Genentech has honored Maher for her work with an Innovator Award and an External Impact Award. She also earned a Best Poster Award at an international oncolytic virotherapy conference.

Being honored with a Viterbo Distinguished Alumni Award took Maher by surprise. “I am incredibly humbled and grateful to receive this honor out of thousands of deserving graduates,” she said. As I think back on my time at Viterbo, it is with a knowledge that this award is a reflection on the tremendous efforts of my family, friends, teachers, professors, and mentors throughout the years. I am deeply touched with the way Viterbo makes intentional efforts to continue supporting its graduates. It is a clear extension of the care and pride Viterbo has for their students.”

2022 Viterbo University Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients main page