Barbara Murphy, a nephrologist who found new techniques for predicting kidney transplant outcomes, died on June 30 at the age of 56. The New York Times reports that Murphy’s husband, Peter Fogarty, confirmed glioblastoma as the cause of death.
Born in Ireland on October 15, 1964, Murphy attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, graduating in 1989. She remained in the city for an internship and fellowship at Beaumont Hospital, where she focused on clinical nephrology. She then moved to the United States for a nephrology postdoc position at Harvard University.
In 1997, she began working at Mount Sinai Health Systems in New York City as the director of transplant nephrology at the Icahn School of Medicine. In 2003, she became chief of the nephrology division. Within a decade, she had accepted a position as the director of the school’s department of medicine, a barrier-shattering career trajectory.
“A world-renowned and award-winning nephrologist and researcher, Dr Murphy was also a trailblazer,” an internal memo at Mount Sinai read, according to Medscape. “In 2012, she became the first female chair of a Department of Medicine at an academic medical center in New York City and, at the time, was only the second female chair of any department at a top 20 medical school in the United States.”
In her early years at Mount Sinai, she worked alongside researchers to untangle the connection between HIV and kidney disease, and to find safe ways for HIV-positive individuals to donate kidneys to one another.
Murphy’s research also used genomics to predict which kidney transplant patients would develop fibrosis that would ultimately harm a transplanted organ and lead to failure. Her team found 13 genes responsible for fibrosis, which the researchers suggested could be used to help tailor post-transplant treatment to suppress its formation.
“Barbara’s commitment to transplantation inspired so many of us, and her passing has left a huge void in our community,” reads a statement from the American Society of Transplantation (AST). Murphy served as AST president from 2008 to 2009 and received the Young Investigator Award in Basic Science from the organization in 2003. At the time of her death, Murphy was also president-elect of the American Society of Nephrology.
According to the Times, Murphy was troubled by the uptick in kidney disease seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and was pivotal to the creation of Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care.
Murphy is survived by Fogarty and their son Gavin, along with her parents and siblings.