When Daniel Murphy graduates from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine this weekend, he will not only join a distinguished group of alumni—he’ll continue a family tradition. Murphy’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all graduated from the School of Medicine before launching medical careers.

The four-generation Legacy Family—one with two or more graduates of the university— includes the late Patrick Sylvester Murphy, a 1915 graduate; John Raymond Murphy, a 1951 graduate and associate professor emeritus of medicine; Douglas Scott Murphy, a 1995 graduate and a contract physician with the Veterans Administration; and now, Daniel.

Forging their paths

Despite their family history, neither Daniel nor his father, Douglas, initially put much thought into following in their elder generations’ footsteps. In fact, Daniel admits he was initially resistant to the idea. As an undergraduate at The Ohio State University studying physics and mathematics, though, he realized he wanted a career that offered him the chance to directly help people.

“Medicine was a good way to do that while also using my brain,” Daniel said.

Once enrolled at CWRU, Daniel cherished his experience working at the Neighborhood Family Practice, where he was a patient navigator during his first two years of medical school. Working with a refugee family, Daniel helped the family understand the health care system and coordinated with a translator to ensure all of the family’s needs were met and questions were answered. 

Douglas, the third-generation graduate, decided to launch his own medical career later in life. After 15 years working in agriculture—a career path inspired by his experiences visiting a family farm—he decided to switch gears. After his education at Case Western Reserve, Douglas went on to work in internal medicine for the Veterans Administration in Cleveland and in Erie, Pennsylvania, until he retired at age 60. He continues to work as a part-time emergency room physician.

For John, the family’s second-generation graduate, his path to medicine was more straightforward. He went on to become a distinguished researcher at University Hospitals, a clinician working with patients with cancer and eventually an administrator as head of the Institutional Review Board. He worked until age 75 and continued his career reviewing medical information for lawyers defending doctors in lawsuits.

“I can’t use words to describe those experiences,” John said of his work.

Growing up, Douglas remembers visiting his father’s lab on the weekends and contributing to research projects in high school. He also recalls the respect others had for his father.

“Everywhere you went on the east side, if you met someone new, they would say ‘oh, Dr. [John] Murphy took care of my dad when he got cancer,’ or did this or that. Many doctors came to him for care,” Douglas said.

Patrick—the family’s first-generation medical school graduate—died when John was just two years old. Patrick contracted a strep infection after cutting his arm on a thornbush, eventually passing in 1928.

Ultimately, it was John’s mother, a nurse in Cleveland, who encouraged John to pursue a medical career.

“She really deserves the credit for what I was able to do,” he said.

A budding career

As the latest member of the Murphy family to enter the medical field, Daniel looks ahead to a pediatrics residency in Madison, Wisconsin.

Even though both John and Douglas agree that it was important that their children not feel any pressure to follow in their footsteps, they are proud of what Daniel has accomplished.

“It makes me very, very proud,” John said.

“We’re proud of all of our kids. He’s done well,” Douglas said. “He’s a hard worker, smart and he’s now focused and committed to one career goal. He should do well with it.”

And even though it wasn’t his intention, Daniel said it’s “special” to continue his family’s legacy.

Fittingly, Daniel plans to celebrate his graduation at home with his family, rather than on campus during the ceremony Sunday, May 16.

Want to tune into the School of Medicine commencement ceremony? Get the details about all of the ceremonies on the commencement website.