A Conversation with Elizabeth

Elizabeth Adkins Murphy
Assistant Clinical Professor

You reference the “Tall Club” on your CV. What is the Tall Club? How has your height been a factor in your outlook and personality?

The Tall Club is a social organization in Chicago for adults who are tall. I wasn’t a member but received one of their scholarships in high school. In addition to being tall, I have a very strong personality and those two things combined have given me a lot of confidence and enthusiasm. You have to be careful when you’re that tall and have that strong a personality that you don’t come off as too strong.

You won the Ralph and Elsie Colton Leadership Award in high school. This is for individuals recognized as having the essential characteristics of leaders. Who inspired you to community involvement at such an early age?

That would definitely be my parents. Growing up, I was repeatedly reminded, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Both my father, who was career military, and my mother were very service oriented. My siblings and I had a lot of opportunities and my parents’ feeling was that we needed to contribute that back into society. From a very early age, they were supportive but the expectation was, “Now what are you going to do with that?”

You wrote an essay when you were a teenager called “Vision for America?” What was it, and does it resonate now as it did when you wrote it? 

At the time, my vision had a lot to do with personal and social responsibility. What can you do as an individual to make society better? It still resonates strongly although I have a more nuanced perspective on the world now. We aren’t all in the same position or have had the same opportunities and those who have had greater opportunities have greater social responsibility.

You have a degree in Comparative Literature with a Distinction in Irish Literature from the University of Michigan and studied for a semester at Trinity College. Who are your favorite Irish people of letters? Do you speak or read Gaelic?

I don’t speak or read Gaelic. My favorite Irish person of letters is a poet by the name of Paula Meehan, an extraordinary poet whom I got the opportunity to meet while I was at Trinity. She was extraordinary. She recited her poetry, and it was almost like she was dancing. It was magical to hear her read her own words and to bring the poetry to life. It was so beautiful, whimsical, lyrical and so Irish.  She is by far my favorite!

Describe your favorite thing about living in Dublin. Have you a favorite lager, ale or stout?

Honestly I’m not that big of a lager, ale or stout person. While I was there, Dublin was starting to become wealthy but still felt very Irish and less like every other big city. My favorite thing was to walk for hours and hours throughout the city. At that time I was falling in love. I had met my husband shortly beforehand and he came to visit me in Ireland. That was a very special time for me.

You are also a dancer. What type and do you still dance? Is the discipline
of movement relevant to your life and work?

I was a ballet dancer and ballet was my really my first love. I was very lucky to have found something in my early adolescence to focus my energies and devotion. Being young and finding something that you love that much, to want to be so good at and work hard towards is a very lucky thing. I am very motivated by passion. I have to be passionate about something or I just won’t do it! If I can find the motivation for something, then I can accomplish it. Ballet is a fine art taught from one individual to another day in, day out. It is constant feedback between the ballet master and the student, and that experience is “mentoring on steroids”! It’s very motivating and important to me to develop that relationship with people I work with. Medicine is an art, you can’t learn it all from a textbook and you must be on the wards next the bed of a patient, talking with the physician who has more experience, getting constant feedback.

You spent some time in India last year and Turkey this year. What impressed you most about your visits? 

India was fascinating and I was amazed at how active and full of life everyone was, doing everything they could to make a better shop or display, opening early in the morning and staying late - very industrious, hardworking, enthusiastic. It was impressive to see people doing everything they could with what they had.  Istanbul was extremely cosmopolitan, very much like Paris although I marveled at the diversity of what I saw, from very traditional garb to extremely fancy leather boots and everything in between in the same cobblestone street. 

From where do you derive the joy you radiate? Is this something you consciously work at or are you an inherently happy person?

Two of my brothers have Type I diabetes and both live life to the fullest, two people who never let anything hold them back. That has always been an important lesson for me: not letting yourself take anything for granted.  Throughout my medicine training, my mantra when I would experience a family or patient going through something difficult is, “Life is so short.” You have to enjoy and appreciate things because everything we have is so fragile and can change in an instant. Medicine continues to remind me that you have to be true to yourself and seize the moment. One thing I really have worked at is to step back and reflect on life. My favorite book is The Stranger by Camus. If there is one thing I have faith in, it is humanity; human beings are capable of extraordinary things. I’m less about safety and security and more about change and new things and to create a life where I feel like I have options.

What is Furry Fashionista? 

Furry Fashionista is an online pet supply store that my sister-in-law started. My husband and family are all budding entrepreneurs. 

What is new and exciting in your world? When are you due and have you begun picking names? 

I’m expecting and very excited!  My husband, Matthew, and I are celebrating our ten-year anniversary on February 26. We waited to have kids.  As an Army brat, I lived in different places and traveled. I really loved trying new things; it bred adaptability, which I think is a real strength. We’ve always said we would name one of our sons either Ender or Darwin but I guess we’ll have to see if it’s a boy or girl. We’ve acknowledged that our child will not be normal, because it’s our child and we’re not normal, but we’ll try to pick a name to match!

Concluding silliness: boy, girl or one of each? 

Healthy, and whatever happens will be fantastic!

Thanks, Elizabeth 

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Elizabeth's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews