Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

 Dr. Dan Murphy, M.D.

Linda Railsback, M.D.

74MD, 78R-Ob/Gyn

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Phillips, Texas, but it doesn’t really exist anymore. It was an oil town and it blew up in 1981.

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

My dad was a science teacher and rubber compounding research and development lab manager for Phillips Petroleum. There were lots of engaging items for a curious kid in the Texas desert.

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

At about age six my curiosity in science was paired with a desire to help people. Since that time, I never wanted to do anything else but medicine. I could do medicine and dabble in, say, foreign languages – but not the other way around.

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

After spending 25 years assembling it, we now have a Sex Assault Response Team (SART) for Polk County Iowans. The SART has served 700+ victims of assault since February of 2006. It is comprised of 19 law enforcement jurisdictions, county attorneys, victim advocate groups, about 20 SANEs (Sex Assault Nurse Examiners), and three physicians.

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

I have many! Drs. Bill Keettel, Roy Pitkin (56BA, 59MD, 63R-Ob/Gyn), Doug Laube (70MD, 74R-Ob/Gyn), Dwight Cruikshank (74R-Ob/Gyn), Chuck deProsse, Robin Powell and Jim Scott (59BA, 62MD, 72R-Ob/Gyn). All of them, and others, encouraged, taught, challenged, and accepted nothing less than excellence of me.

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

From elementary school on, one takes Iowa Basic Skills Exams. ACT exams are based in Iowa. One might begin to think education was important to people in Iowa! My plan was to go to medical school at Iowa (after Grinnell College) and become an orthopaedic surgeon. I didn’t apply to any other medical schools. Why settle for less than the best?

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

The depth and breadth of medical training in general, and obstetrics and gynecology in particular, bailed me out of difficult medical circumstances in both Kosovo and Cameroon. The medical fundamentals from Iowa are solid. The other part of training was to learn to think, to be flexible, to problem–solve, and to apply some common sense to the issue at hand. The expectation from colleagues — even in other countries — was, "You are from Iowa. You can figure out how to make it work."

Please describe your professional interests.

I’m interested in what we can learn from animal reproduction and physiology. For example, how do bears put a pregnancy "on hold" until after hibernation, no matter when conception was? How are deer not calcium–deficient in shedding antlers every year, with such a huge calcium loss? There are few yogurt containers in the woods… How do mice stop labor until a more propitious time, like after the cat goes home?

Also my interests are in prenatal care for the underserved, gynecologic care for women with special needs, justice for those sexually assaulted, and dignified end–of–life care.

What are some of your outside interests?

The joys and rigors (sorry for the pun) of rowing; English literature (especially the Romantics); studying different languages; quilting and tatting. I am also in a steel drum band (yes, we have a CD out; no, we have not gone platinum).

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

My philosophy in work is to be fully present with this individual or this task at this time and ask, "What is the loving thing to do here?"

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

I’m not sure we have a health care system in the United States; that is part of the problem. For "health care" in the United States we need less emphasis on business and more emphasis on care that is effective and reasonable. Our technology has outstripped our ethics. Just because we CAN do something does not mean we SHOULD.

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

The biggest change is that the business aspect of medicine has exploded. From a scientific standpoint, I would say the blooming of molecular biology.

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

Medicine is an unfaithful partner – don’t marry it. Attend to your physical and spiritual health, or medicine will eat you alive.

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

More gadgets and less individualization for patients.


Medicine Alumni Society
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