Barbara T. Murphy, MD, a world-renowned and award-winning nephrologist and researcher who became the first female Chair of a Department of Medicine at an academic medical center in New York City, died June 30, 2021, at age 56.
Her extraordinary resume does not fully represent or encapsulate the deep and lasting impression she made on her colleagues, friends, and mentees throughout the Mount Sinai Health System and the greater medical community.
Hailing from South Dublin, Ireland, Dr. Murphy attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. While there, she was inspired to pursue a career in treating and researching kidney disease and transplant immunology by a young dialysis patient who, quite literally, received a second chance at life after a successful kidney transplant. This passion led her to the United States, where she completed a nephrology fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
In 1997, Dr. Murphy was recruited to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine as Director of Transplant Nephrology and—just six years later—was named the division’s Chief, becoming one of the youngest division Chiefs in the United States, as well as one of the few women at the time to hold the title. Subsequently, she was appointed the Dean for Clinical Integration and Population Health, and went on to become Chair of Medicine in 2012. At the time, she was only the second female Chair of any Department at a top 20 medical school in the United States.
As a researcher, Dr. Murphy focused on genetics and genomics in transplantation. Her discoveries have led to renal transplantation in HIV-positive patients becoming standard of care. She conducted groundbreaking research using high-throughput genomic technologies to understand the immune mechanisms that lead to graft injury and loss. Importantly, she aimed to identify gene expression profiles or genetic variants that would predict patients’ risk for disease. Dr. Murphy's laboratory took a systems biology approach to identifying genetic drivers of fibrosis; this had important implications for kidney transplantation but she hoped it would have an enormous impact on all organ transplantations in the future.
Dr. Murphy was also an innovator and inventor. In addition to her roles within the Health System, in 2018 she became Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for RenalytixAI, an artificial intelligence-enabled in vitro diagnostics company that collaborates with Mount Sinai in seeking to improve chronic kidney disease detection, management, and treatment. And, in 2020, she became a co-founder and board member of Verici Dx, a pioneering company focused on advanced clinical diagnostics in organ transplant.
Dr. Murphy was the President-Elect of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) at the time of her passing, and was named in June 2021 as the recipient of the ASN’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named Nephrologist of the Year in 2011 by the American Kidney Fund; among The Annual Irish America Healthcare and Life Science 50 in 2016; and as one of the Crain’s New York “Notable Women in Health Care” in 2018. She received numerous honorary doctoral degrees from universities and medical schools.
A visionary leader and stalwart champion for the Department of Medicine, Dr. Murphy never stopped planning to make the Department better, stronger, and more inclusive. She was thrilled by the successes and achievements of the Department, and was profoundly grateful for the sacrifices of her colleagues. She was admired by faculty, colleagues, staff, and trainees for her enormous integrity, energy, and generosity. She will be deeply missed.