Researcher knits for a cure

Published 7:17 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dr. Maggie Morris Fears is a multi-talented supporter of the American Diabetes Association.

Not only is she a dedicated cyclist who participates in the Tour de Cure ride every year, but also she is a Type 1 diabetes researcher who has used her musical talents to raise money for the Tour in the past.

This year, she’s pulling another trick out of her hat — knitting.

Email newsletter signup

“I have been knitting coffee cup cozies for a cure,” she said.

The cozies are available for $15 each, and they can be acquired by emailing her at

The researcher plans to ride the 65-mile route in this year’s Tour.

“I had an ankle injury last summer, so I’ve been trying to take it slow and not push it too much,” she said.

Those are relative terms in her life overall, though. In addition to all she does for Tour de Cure, Morris Fears is a diabetes researcher, professor and director of the biomedical sciences graduate program at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

“I just make time for things like bike riding so I have a chance to let off some steam,” she said.

Morris Fears’ research lately has focused on whether a virus might contribute to the initiation of Type 1 diabetes in some patients.

“Working with a group of investigators around the world, we’ve acquired pretty substantial evidence that supports that theory,” she said.

She’s now part of a grant to “look at more functional aspects of how it might do that.”

She said many patients with Type 1 diabetes involved in the study still have the virus present in their body, many years after developing diabetes. Not all do, however.

“Individuals with certain genes that affect how the immune system responds to different diseases are more susceptible to developing Type 1 diabetes,” she said. “Some of it’s how your body responds to the virus.”

Morris Fears said the American Diabetes Association has been vital to diabetes research through its grant funding. More locally, however, the association’s efforts in education, awareness and access to care have really hit home.

“They have interactions with local agencies such as Obici Healthcare Foundation that support education and clinical access for patients closer to home,” she said. “They’ve really made great strides in Western Tidewater in particular. Bringing access to care for those people, which is one of the hardest-hit regions in the commonwealth, I think they’ve really done a great job with that.”

The 2017 Hampton Roads Tour de Cure will take place April 29, beginning and ending at King’s Fork High School. The route options are 10, 25, 65 or 100 miles.

There is a $25 registration fee and a $200 fundraising minimum. The fundraising goal is $450,000; so far about $223,000 has been raised.

Visit for more information about the fundraiser or to volunteer.