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Barrington doctor honored for his work in geriatrics

Dr. John Murphy now serves as president of Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/26/20

Years of working in geriatrics offered Dr. John Murphy a glimpse of what was to come.

The president of Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital and lead physician for Lifespan recalled …

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Please support local news coverage –

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Barrington doctor honored for his work in geriatrics

Dr. John Murphy now serves as president of Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital

Posted

Years of working in geriatrics offered Dr. John Murphy a glimpse of what was to come.

The president of Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital and lead physician for Lifespan recalled past conversations he had shared with older patients years ago — people who could remember what it was like living through the flu outbreak of 1918.

That insight, said Dr. Murphy, has proven to be crucial as Rhode Island prepared for and continues to cope with the impact of the coronavirus.

Dr. Murphy, a longtime Barrington resident who was recently honored with the 2020 Dennis W. Jahnigen Award from the American Geriatrics Society, said those who lived through the 1918 pandemic spoke about losing loved ones, about events being canceled, and about being quarantined at home.

"They talked about how frightening it was," he said.

Dr. Murphy leaned on that experience as the state's medical community and government leaders prepared for the coronavirus in early January. Dr. Murphy said he has been very impressed with the coordinated effort by all hospital staff during the current situation. He said employees have stepped up to meet the needs of the ongoing crisis — pharmacy staff began creating hand sanitizer when the hospital's supplier ran out; maintenance workers shifted gears and began making face shields.

People have performed fantastically, said Dr. Murphy, who has lived in Barrington since 1986.

Lifespan's lead physician is asking people across Rhode Island to continue to heed the governor's advice and recommendations. Dr. Murphy said the social distancing and face-covering guidelines will continue to play an important role in this community's ability to keep people safe.

"Follow what the governor said," Dr. Murphy advised.

In addition, people need to keep up with their routine medical care, appointments and immunizations. Dr. Murphy said it is safe for people to go to their doctors and hospitals, and cautioned people about the dangers of ignoring other health issues for fears of the coronavirus.

Special honor

For nearly four decades, Dr. Murphy has worked to advance geriatrics and gerontology, and embed geriatrics education in the fabric of medical curricula and clinical operations.

He was first drawn to the field of geriatrics by some of the challenges it presented. Dr. Murphy worked hard to overcome those initial obstacles and flourished in the field. He said his time with older patients — for 34 years he worked closely with patients — has been very rewarding.

About two years ago, Dr. Murphy stopped seeing patients and focused his work in other areas.

"That was the hardest thing I ever did," Dr. Murphy said.

Currently, Dr. Murphy leads Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital, oversees graduate medical education and is responsible for "system-wide pharmacy, laboratory, and supply chain purchasing, as well as Lifespan research, all with an operating budget of $2.2 billion and a research portfolio valued at $95 million."

From 2004 to 2008, Dr. Murphy served as the director of graduate medical education and designated institutional official for Lifespan, which serves 650 residents and fellows.

"Dr. Murphy honed much of the expertise he brings to this work over a 40-year career as an educator at Brown, where he began work as a family medicine resident in 1980," stated a recent press release. "Dr. Murphy went on to serve Brown in a variety of roles, including the director of the division of geriatrics from 1986 to 2003 and director of education from 2000 to 2003. His efforts included initiatives to enhance geriatric education for primary care providers in China (Shanghai and Beijing) and Jordan."

Good advice

When asked what the keys were to a long, healthy life, Dr. Murphy offered two responses.

The first was to "pick good parents." He said genetics play a crucial role in a person's health.

He also said it was extremely important for people to keep physically active and mentally active.

"Exercise your brain, and exercise your body," Dr. Murphy said, adding that any activity is a step in the right direction. "Start low and go slow."

Dr. Murphy said he will officially retire in January, and is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

"The most important thing to me is my wife and kids," he said. "Family is your first job… you see that when you're a geriatrician."

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