Dr. Barbara Murphy; Kidney Transplant Expert, Dies at 56

Her research focused on immunology and how to predict and diagnose transplant outcomes. “She was a great researcher and mentor to many people,” a colleague said.

Doctor, a nephrologist who specialized in predicting and diagnosing kidney transplant outcomes, died on Wednesday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where she had worked since 1997. She was 56 years old.

According to her husband, Peter Fogarty, the cause of death was glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

She combines a passion for kidney transplant immunology with her role as chairwoman of the department of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. New York City’s first woman to head a department of medicine at an academic medical center.

Doctor, dean of the Icahn School, spoke by phone about five-tool players in baseball. I don’t know how many tools she had, but she was a very strong administrator, a great researcher, and a great mentor.”

In medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Doctor developed an interest in kidney transplantation. In particular, she was drawn to the way the surgery transformed the lives of patients.

As she told Irish America magazine in 2016, “I love seeing how well patients do afterward.” “Even after all these years, seeing a living donor interact with a recipient in the recovery room still makes me proud to be a physician.”

After being recruited to Mount Sinai in 1997, she helped establish the viability of kidney transplants for patients with HIV after joining other researchers in examining the role of H.I.V. in kidney disease. In a speech at the Royal College in 2018, she recalled that there had been criticism of such transplants — as if there were a “moral hierarchy when it came to donor kidneys.”

Several weeks ago, we received an email from a patient thanking us on the occasion of his 15th birthday.

Doctor has recently conducted research at her Mount Sinai laboratory on how to predict the results of transplants and why some kidneys are rejected.

In 2016 findings reported in The Lancet, she and her collaborators reported that they had identified a set of 13 genes that would predict which patients would subsequently develop fibrosis, a hallmark of chronic kidney disease, and irreversible damage to the transplanted organ. In order to prevent fibrosis, they wrote, it is necessary to be able to predict which patients are at risk.

Two companies have licensed her research. As part of its validation trials, Verici DX is developing RNA signature tests to determine how a patient is responding to, and will respond to, a transplant. Another company, Renalytix, uses artificial intelligence to identify kidney disease risk scores. Both companies were represented on the boards by Doctor.

Sara Barrington, the company’s chief executive, said Barbara was the foundation of Verici. “Her lab will continue to file new discoveries based on her base research,” she said.

Barbara Therese Murphy was born in South Dublin on Oct. 15, 1964. John Murphy, her father, owned an airfreight company, and Anne (Duffy) Murphy, her mother, designed bridal wear.

She had to overcome a harsh teacher’s judgment at age 4.

During a speech at a health care awards dinner sponsored by Irish America in 2016, Doctor recalled being told by her elementary school teacher that she would never amount to anything. It was fortunate that my parents persevered.”

A graduate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1989, she completed her residency and nephrology fellowship at Beaumont Hospital, also in Dublin. As a nephrology fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, she trained in transplant immunology.

Doctor was recruited to Mount Sinai in 1997 by Doctor, then the division’s chief of nephrology. After he became chairman of Icahn’s department of medicine in 2003, he promoted her to his former position.

She showed a lot of promise in transplant nephrology, which was emerging at the time, Doctor said by phone. “She developed good leadership skills over time. She was very organized and task-oriented.”

As other physicians noticed in the spring of 2020, Covid-19 was much more than a respiratory disease. A surge in kidney failure caused a shortage of dialysis machines, supplies, and personnel.

She told The New York Times that the number of patients who need dialysis is orders of magnitude greater than what we normally dialyze.

Mount Sinai opened the Center for Post-Covid Care in May in response to the pandemic. Covid-19 had been diagnosed in more than 8,000 patients at Mount Sinai at the time.

“Barbara was instrumental in establishing the center, and she helped follow up on kidney disease caused by Covid.”

In 2003, Doctor received the Young Investigator Award in Basic Science from the American Society of Transplantation, and in 2011, he was named Nephrologist of the Year by the American Kidney Fund. She was president-elect of the American Society of Nephrology at the time of her death.

Besides her husband, she is survived by their son, Gavin; her sister, Doctor, a cardiologist who specializes in occupational health; and her brother, Doctor, an interventional neuroradiologist.

During her medical school years, Doctor learned the importance of a strong patient-doctor relationship.

“Scholarship alone is not enough,” she said at the Irish America award ceremony. If we shook the hand of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis and they winced, no matter how much we knew about the disease or how to treat it, we’d failed our exam because we hadn’t taken the patient’s well-being into consideration.”

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