Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

Portrait: Dan Murphy, M.D.

Dan Murphy, M.D.

(66BS, 70MD)

What is your hometown?

Alton, Iowa

What is your official title?

Medical Director, Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili, East Timor.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

My grandfather was the seventh son of a seventh son. In Ireland, that makes being a healer automatic. A strong inclination of medicine in the family was begun.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

My mother died of breast cancer when I was eleven and I felt that something had to be done.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

My most significant accomplishment has been without a doubt contributing as a physician to the most improbable, yet successful, struggle for self-determination in East Timor.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

Dr. Douglas Laube (70MD, 74R-ObGyn, 78MA) and Dr. Larry Norby (70MD, 73R-Internal Medicine) stand out.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

My undergraduate degree was from the University of Iowa and its reputation for medical training was excellent.

What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your University of Iowa medical training provided?

I have worked mostly in the most contentious and underserved areas. My solid, basic medical foundation from my training at Iowa has always served me well.

Please describe your professional interests.

My interests are always to find a just cause crying out for attention, and then to apply your trade - always from the heart. I have come to love teaching at all levels and do so daily. My passion is, for the foreseeable future, tuberculosis in all its myriad presentations and treacherous clinical progressions.

You’ve worked with Cesar Chaves at a clinic for farm workers, you’ve spent time in Mozambique, Laos and Nicaragua working for the underserved, and then founded a clinic in East Timor and have been working there for a little more than a decade.  What drives fuels your passion for this work?

A small town Iowa sense of justice and fairness; being goal-oriented, persevering, and even obstinate; then being driven into a moral corner by the calamitous Vietnam War.  And finally, a nagging discomfort at having so much when others struggle for mere survival.

What are some of your outside interests?

Josef Conrad, basketball, eastern philosophy, and Asian history.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Start with the poorest of the poor and follow the path of compassion, always.

If you could change one thing about the health care system in the United States, what would it be?

Universal access to care, and a system that prioritizes prevention.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

The corporate business nature of medicine today. My father, who was a physician, might have received a chicken and a bottle of homemade elderberry wine as payment for a home visit. What has happened to us?

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Delete all the standard advisements and find your "Burma". You will never regret it.

What do you see as "the future" of the medicine?

Dizzying technical advancements for the few, and ever increasing abandonment and misery for the many.

2010 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Award for Achievement

Award for Service

Early Achievement


Medicine Alumni Society
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