Christy MurphyChristy Murphy is on a mission at Touro University California, one that involves the legacy of her mother.

The 23-year-old Louisiana native and recent Gates Millennium Scholars recipient sits in the TUC library and calmly tells the story of her upbringing. Donning a radiant smile, humble demeanor, and quiet voice, the Master of Public Health student begins by mentioning her focus – research on a community level. And the reasons for her determination begin to unfold.

Christy was just seven when her father, a man with a third-grade education who held three jobs to support his nine children, passed away of lung cancer. “He smoked three packs of cigarettes a day,” Christy recollects.

She is the youngest of her siblings and was the closest to her mother, Anna Murphy, whom Christy says she shadowed throughout the years.

“We were very, very close. Everywhere she went I was right beside her; I did everything with her,” Christy recalls fondly of her mother.  “I don’t know how she did it with us. She was as strong woman.”

Without hesitation, Christy recalls the times she shared with her family on the 85-acres of land they owned in Rayville, LA., where fruits and vegetables peppered the property, myriad cows grazed the land, and where a clubhouse made of tin resided on a nearby tree.

But the mayhem of facing another loss came all too quickly when Anna began to lose weight drastically. It wasn’t long before her mother was informed she had stomach cancer. Less than two years later, Anna lost the battle. For Christy, then 17, it was a life-changing moment that eventually propelled her to study public health at TUC.

“Watching my mother deteriorate was the worst thing; worse than having the doctor come into the office and tell her she had cancer,” Christy recalls. “This is why I want to research medicine. What if she had explored other options?”

Carrying the perseverance exemplified by her parents, she attended Louisiana State University and graduated with a degree in kinesiology. After researching for a graduate school, she found that TUC offered a robust program in public health. Christy applied to participate in the Master of Public Health Program and soon after, was accepted.

On the day of registration, and still unsure as to how she would provide tuition, Christy received a letter from the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program. She was the recipient of a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of her choice. For Christy, Touro University California was the choice, a decision she affirms felt right inside.

“My mother’s legacy keeps pushing me forward,” she says smiling. “I want to research medicine and pharmaceutical products as well as get involved in cancer research. I want answers. I want to see what can be done.”

Christy will fulfill her legacy thanks to GMS, a scholarship that promotes academic excellence and opportunities for outstanding minority students with significant financial needs. Reports from GMS show that recipients obtained a 79.9% graduation rate in five years. And for Christy, she plans to be one of them.

“I’m really happy to have won this. I wouldn’t be here without it,” she says.

When asked what her mother would say if she were here, Christy pauses for a moment, takes a deep breath, and then smiles.

“I hope she’d say she was proud,” Christy says.

Touro University California offers the Master of Public Health degree. Touro faculty train students academically and professionally, providing them with the expertise to become leaders in managing the current and emerging public health challenges of populations locally and abroad. To learn about Touro's Public Health Program, click here.

Last Updated: 6/17/15