When Maureen Murphy graduated from Pittsburg State University, she was well on her way to a career in journalism or public relations. Last October, however, Murphy was honored as the 2016 Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Murphy is the first to say her journey into medicine was not typical, but it was a path that just seemed natural.
The daughter of legendary football and swimming coach Joe Murphy, Maureen grew up on campus.
“We lived just three blocks south of the campus,” Murphy said. “I used to regularly ride my bicycle through the Oval and Dad took me to the locker room on Sundays. I knew all the football players.”
At PSU, Murphy majored in English and minored in journalism. She worked on the KANZA and Collegio and after graduation, as a weekend reporter at KODE TV in Joplin. Attracted to big city life, she landed a public relations job with the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in Kansas City.
“I really enjoyed what I was writing about, which was the specialty of family medicine,” Murphy said. “It just made a lot of sense.”
The thought of taking care of families and communities appealed to Murphy, so she went back to school and took the Medical College Admission Test. She was accepted into the KU School of Medicine, graduating in 1985, with an award for Outstanding Student in Family Practice.
Following a residency in family medicine at Duke, Murphy became a clinical instructor at the East Carolina School of Medicine Family Practice Center in Greenville, N.C. She was in private practice from 1990 to 2011 and founded an independent, full-spectrum, family medicine practice in Gastonia, N.C., where she became an advocate for both patients and physicians at Gaston Memorial Hospital. She established a family medicine department at the hospital and delivered hundreds of babies.
In 2011, Murphy’s passion for teaching brought her to Cabarrus Family Medicine in Concord, N.C., where she mentors the next generation of family physicians and cares for patients of all ages. She remains very involved as a preceptor for medical schools both in and outside of North Carolina.
“I enjoy taking care of everything and also the person within the context of their family,” Murphy said. “My practice has always been heavy on not just taking care of one person, but knowing how they function within their family and also how they function within their community.”
Murphy said the specialty of family medicine is increasingly important.
“Particularly now,” Murphy said, “when we’re looking at an aging population and there’s not enough primary care doctors to take care of them. Not all medicine happens in tertiary care centers. A lot of medicine happens in places like Pittsburg, Kansas, or Sparta, North Carolina.”
Murphy said her role as a family physician means she is privileged to be involved in all parts of families’ lives.
“There’s a lot of self satisfaction in being a primary care doctor and being part of somebody’s life,” Murphy said, “plus, you get a lot of cookies at Christmas!”
Krista Postai, a friend and former classmate who is now president and CEO of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, said Murphy took a road not taken at a time when women’s career choices were typically more limited.
“She defied the odds and once accepted, there was no barrier too high personally or professionally for her to overcome, which she did with an enduring sense of humor and passion for life and people,” Postai said. “Her goal was never to be somebody, but do something, and now she’s accomplished both.”