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.
Emily Combias ran two half-marathons while she was a student in the MGH Institute’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Now that she’s out of school, she’ll take on an entire 26.2-mile course when she runs the 2023 Boston Marathon for Team IHP.
“Running has always been an important part of my life, a constant that has kept me grounded and allowed me the space to process life’s challenges,” said the 2022 graduate. “I’ve always wanted to run a marathon when I turned 30, and I just did. I loved the school, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to be part of the team.”
Combias played tennis, squash, and lacrosse during high school in New Jersey, but she tore her ACL while playing club lacrosse at Pepperdine University in California. An athlete for her entire life, she switched to running and has never looked back.
A few years after completing college, she moved to Germany and worked in marketing for an international software company but soon discovered it wasn’t for her. “I didn't feel like my work had any purpose and I didn't like sitting behind a desk all day,” she said. “I decided that I needed more meaning in my career.”
Combias had always had an interest in healthcare, so she began talking to people in various fields and quickly narrowed it down to nursing. After looking into several schools, she felt that the MGH Institute was a great match. Still in Germany, she began taking required online prerequisite courses offered by the Institute. And when it came time to applying to BSN programs, the IHP was the only school to which she applied. She returned to the States and began the 16-month program in the spring of 2021.
Once at the IHP, she quickly became aware of the school’s focus and commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. “I was impressed throughout the program how committed the IHP was to raising cultural awareness and challenging students to become engaged in sometimes difficult, but imperative conversations regarding the lack of equal representation in healthcare and the barriers that vulnerable populations face when it comes to accessing quality care,” she said.
Since graduating in May 2022, Combias has worked on an oncology floor at Massachusetts General Hospital where she has continued her focus on improving care for all patients regardless of socioeconomic status. And her commitment to diversity is also the reason she is running for Team IHP.
“I can see first-hand the importance of bridging this gap in care by fostering a diverse workforce,” said Combias, whose fundraising will go toward a scholarship for BSN students interested in pursuing a career in global health. “I hope that my fundraising efforts will help any soul with the heart to pursue a career in nursing and give them an equal chance for an incredible education to improve patient care and make the future of nursing a more diverse and representative field.”