The fundraising of SLP student Cailin Murphy and BSN graduate Emily Combias will help the MGH Institute support future students.

More than two dozen students, alumni, and faculty since 2011 have run the Boston Marathon, raising over $150,000 to support the MGH Institute. While each of the runners have had their own reasons for participating in Team IHP, they all share a goal of improving patient care. 

Cailin Murphy had never heard of aphasia until the summer of 2020.  

That was when her father, Patrick, was afflicted with the communication condition following surgery to remove a glioblastoma after being diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. 

Murphy had just moved back to her childhood home in Plymouth after graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in exercise physiology. On the back deck of her father’s house, sitting with her father whose speaking abilities had declined to the point he was able to say just a few words, Murphy spent a lot of time pondering her future while working as a remote health counselor. 

Then she had a chance conversation with a cousin who is a physical therapist and worked with patients who had aphasia. 

“She asked me if I knew anything about speech-language pathologists and I said not really,” Murphy recalled. “I went home that night and researched until four in the morning and learned how they work with aphasia patients. And I remember thinking, ‘This is it.’ I knew I had found my path. I now knew what I wanted to do.” 

In 2021, she began the MGH Institute’s Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology program. Tragically, Murphy’s father, Patrick, passed away in August 2022 at the age of 56, just days prior to the start of her second year and before she had even been assigned a clinical rotation in the IHP’s Aphasia Center that a handful of students do during their final year of the program. 

“While it was very hard, it was good to get right back to school to keep my mind off it,” she said. “I've gotten more support than I could have imagined from classmates and faculty. So, it’s been a reminder of why I’m in the program.” 

A nationally ranked swimmer until the age of 14, when an injury derailed her goal of getting an Olympic tryout, Murphy had run “for fun” a half-marathon during college. Her father, who worked for Boston Marathon sponsor John Hancock, had told her he could get her an official number if she ever wanted to tackle it. She promised him she’d run it some day.  

But then last fall, Murphy received an email that the school was looking for people to apply to run the 2023 race for Team IHP. “It was in the back of my head about running Boston when he passed, but I was saying, ‘No, I can’t do it now, I need to focus on finishing school’,” she said. 

After talking with her mother, Patricia, and brother Ryan, she decided to fill out an application, writing that she wanted to run in her dad’s memory and raise funds for the Aphasia Center.  

“I sent it in on a Wednesday, found out on Friday I got a clinical placement in the Aphasia Center, and learned I was picked to run the following Wednesday,” she said. “That was quite a week.” 

Since then, she’s been juggling working with clients during her last semester while training for the April 17 race. While she doesn’t want to predict a time, she’s confident the enthusiasm of the crowd along with applying her dad’s motto – “There are only two things in life you can control – your attitude and your effort” – will help her reach the finish line. 

“I am so grateful for the chance to be able to give back to the program that’s given me so much,” she said.