2020 - 2029

Honorary Citation by Dr Michael Byrne for Dr Margaret Murphy

5 Nov 2021

"A Sheansailéir, a Uachtaráin, a mhuintir na hOllscoile, ceimigh bhliain 2021, agus a dhaoine uaisle,  

It is entirely fitting, that on this day of celebration and conferring in a College of Medicine and Health, in a School of Nursing and Midwifery, that we celebrate and honour the extraordinary achievements and the incredible work of a woman that has undoubtedly made healthcare a far safer place- safer for both patients and clinicians. 

Dr Margaret Murphy, we are here today so that University College Cork can pay tribute to you and your work, by conferring on you an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine. 

You are not a woman given to pride, but I do sincerely hope that if not pride, that you have a deep sense of real satisfaction and feel real joy in the knowledge of the very high esteem in which you are held by University College Cork, and our community of students and staff. 

You are joined here today, and I know you wished me to acknowledge them and their love and support for you, by your family and friends, and whilst you may not be given to pride, I know that their hearts will be pounding in their chests, with their love and their pride for you and in you. Treasure these precious family moments. You have travelled a long road together. 

And yet you never sought this path, nor wanted this road, this road was chosen for you, not by you, at least not by you not at the start of your journey.  

On September 26th, 1999 your son, Kevin Murphy, 21, died of the eminently treatable condition of Hypercalcaemia secondary to Hyperparathyroidism. 

Amongst the litany of errors in his care, a simple yellow Post-It note containing the handwritten -literally vital-, calcium result, stuck to the back of the referral letter when Kevin’s file was being compiled in the hospital. The post-it note with the -literally vital- calcium result was not seen or discovered until some six weeks after Kevin’s death. 

Unspeakable,yet you began to speak, and you have not stopped speaking since. 

Speaking up for patients as a patient advocate: Speaking up for patient safety as a safety champion: Speaking out against the failure of systems and organisations and clinicians who do not own their responsibility when things go wrong.  

Speaking to Students and to Healthcare professionals as to how to better respond to and prevent medical error and adverse outcomes occurring in the first place. 

The last time I had the privilege to hear Margaret speak in public was March 2019 BC, (Before COVID), where for over an hour, a conference hall, filled with 200 Student Health Nurses, Doctors and other healthcare professionals, sat in stunned silence, silent only for the occasional gasp of anguish or of a stifled sob of sorrow as you told your story.  

That day you had direct local and real impacts-  

In the words of our President, Professor John O Halloran  

Margaret has been an incredibly positive force for change…. Her powerful personal testimony as to the series of events that led up to and followed on after Kevin’s tragic death, has had direct personal impact on many healthcare students and professionals worldwide.

Not just Cork. Worldwide.  

An ordinary woman doing extraordinary things. 

Motivated by a parent’s love for their child. What’s more ordinary than that? 

What’s more extraordinary than that? 

In this era of COVID, even encomiums have their restrictions, so in listing your outstanding achievements and your extraordinary work, I am conscious that I might overrun my time, but it would be remiss of me not to mention just a few. 

In a collated list of your work, I counted 35 individual outstanding contributions across several domains, including in the areas of: Policy Development, Research, Ethics, Safety and Quality Improvement in Healthcare, and Patient Advocacy. 

To pick just a few highlights: 

You are, or have been: 

  • External Lead Advisor to the WHO Patient Safety Programme 
  • Steering Group member of the WHO collaborative centre for patient safety solutions 
  • One of 70 Global Experts for the International Society for Quality Improvement 
  • Patient Advocate Voice at International Conferences from Vancouver to Qatar 
  • Member of WHO Medical Curriculum Committee 

And closer to home: 

You are, or have been: 

  • A Member of the Curriculum Committee in UCC and 
  • A Member of the Advisory Committee in the Post Grad Med School in University Limerick 
  • A Guest Lecturer/Visiting lecturer to UG and PG students in UCC RCSI QUB 
  • Awarded Honorary Doctorates in Queens University in Kingston Ontario and Queens University Belfast 

Extraordinary achievements across a whole range of areas. Perhaps the area closest to your heart however is that of the Education of Student Healthcare Professionals, which is especially apt for the graduates here before us today.  

You shared with me one of your most treasured recollections of your work in educating healthcare students, where you describe that following a presentation you gave in RCSI, a young medical student came bounding along the road in St Stephens’ Green, to catch you up and to say, with tears in his eyes “ Margaret, I just want to say that, after what you have said in there, I promise I will always try to be the best Doctor I can be”, and I understand you both collapsed in tears. 

Margaret this is a hall full of recently graduated healthcare professionals; nurses and midwifes. As a result of your work and your story I am 100% confident that they too will always try to be the best nurse or midwife that they can be. Perhaps that can also be part of your legacy to us today. 

Finally, and on a more personal note you are of course more than a world-renowned healthcare safety champion and a much loved and respected patient care advocate. 

You are also of course, or at least you have been previously, a colleague- You’re “one of our own” as you served loyally and diligently, providing administrative support in Department of Environmental Engineering in UCC for over nine years up to the turn of the century, and nothing gives University College Cork more pleasure than celebrating one of its own.  

Comhgairdeachas leat. 

Most importantly of all however is that you are or have been; a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a mother and a grandmother, an ordinary, extraordinary woman who has done extraordinary things and your family, friends, and your university salute you. 

University College Cork now wishes to confer on you an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine." 

Praehonorabilis Pro Vice Cancellarie, totaque universitas: 

Praesento vobis hanc meam filiam quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneam esse quae admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus Medicinae, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae. 


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