In front of a crowd of her peers, several who have been directly impacted by her, Maureen Murphy, MD, a family physician and faculty coordinator of student programs at Cabarrus Family Medicine, was named the 2014 North Carolina Physician of the Year by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, at the association’s annual meeting in Asheville in December.
Dr. Murphy became the third family physician from Cabarrus Family Medicine to win the award, following L. Allen Dobson Jr., MD, founder and former president of Cabarrus Family Medicine, and Charles Rhodes, MD, current president of the organization.
“The family physician of the year award is usually given to someone who has been in the same community for 30 years … and I’ve moved around a bit in my life,” Dr. Murphy said. “I didn’t think that this was something I would ever get.”
The NCAFP is a nonprofit professional association representing over 3,700 family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students across North Carolina. It is the largest medical specialty association in North Carolina and is a constituent chapter of the 115,000+ member-strong American Academy of Family Physicians.
Practicing with Compassion, Teaching with Wisdom
Dr. Murphy was recognized for effortlessly blending her adept clinical skill with compassion and inspiring wisdom while embracing all of the key ideals of the specialty, including a lifelong commitment to delivering both comprehensive and coordinated care to patients, helping to advance the specialty of family medicine.
“Maureen was chosen more on her role as an educator,” Dr. Rhodes said. “She’s been an inspiration to multiple students. When she gave her acceptance speech, those who were taught or mentored by her were asked to stand and about half of the room stood up. She’s been a great role model.”
Throughout Dr. Murphy's ensuing medical career, she has served as an extraordinary medical educator and a beloved community physician. In doing so, she has motivated and energized thousands.
“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart to convert medical students to family physicians,” Dr. Murphy said. “When you see the light go in in a student’s eyes, like when you first show them how to inject a shoulder, there’s that excitement. It makes me as happy as it makes them.”
Dr. Murphy has served North Carolina communities ranging from the medically underserved in the small, rural town of Sparta, to busy suburban communities like Gastonia and Concord.
Called to Family Medicine through Journalism
Dr. Murphy began her career in communications, working as a television reporter and public relations writer. This path led her to join the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine as their membership and public relations director in 1977. It was in this role where Dr. Murphy would discover her true life's calling: family medicine.
"While writing about this newly invigorated specialty of family medicine -- with stories about taking care of patients in the context of their families and within their communities and treating people not just diseases -- the whole idea of family medicine just made sense to me,” Murphy said in explaining what drew her to medicine.
Committed to becoming a doctor, Murphy began her second career, re-enrolling in college for the requisite science classes and eventually was accepted at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
"I stated in my medical school interview that I was doing this solely to become a family doctor,” Dr. Murphy said.
Dr. Murphy's passion for family medicine continued throughout medical school, leading her to make several lasting impacts. She helped organize the university's first Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG) and was also an active student leader in Kansas' family medicine community, and nationally with the American Academy of Family Physicians as its national student director. After graduation, Dr. Murphy went on to complete her residency training in family medicine at Duke University in 1988, again serving as the specialty's national resident representative on the AAFP Board of Directors.
An Educator and Community Physician
After Duke, Dr. Murphy moved on to become part of the teaching faculty at East Carolina University. She later turned her attention toward full-time practice and now does a little bit of both.
"I truly believe that if every medical student had an experience like I did with Dr. Murphy, we’d see the numbers of students going into family medicine skyrocket," noted Jennifer Mullendore, MD, medical director with the Buncombe County Department of Health & Human Services. "She is an inspiration to me to truly connect with my patients and those I am surrounded by – neighbors, coworkers, and of course, medical students – and show them compassion, respect and the joy that being a family physician can bring to oneself and to one’s community."
Beyond clinical practice, Dr. Murphy was also an instrumental voice in the creation of the NCAFP Foundation's Medical Student Endowment Fund designed to promote medical student interest in family medicine and primary care. She has also served family medicine in various leadership capacities, including NCAFP President (2001), NCAFP Board Chair (2002), and led the NCAFP Foundation as its president from 2004-2009.
Dr. Murphy resides in Concord with her husband, Scott Maxwell.