Dublin mother of 12 on starting her medical degree: ‘My only options are do it now, or regret it forever’

Rosemary Murphy tells The Women’s Podcast about her dream to become a doctor

Listen | 50:37

Rosemary Murphy, a now 40-year-old woman from Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin, had two major goals from childhood. The first was to have a large family. The second was to study medicine and become a doctor.

As a mother of 12 children, ranging from 20 years old to 19 months, the first goal has been fully realised. This September she is on her way to achieving her second, when she begins a six year medical degree at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

“It’s finally happening after all this time, I can’t wait to start studying,” she tells Róisín Ingle on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

An only child from a working class background, Murphy left school at the age of 15 after completing her Junior Cert, but always hoped to return to study medicine one day.


“I’ve no connections to medicine, no-one in my immediate family is a doctor, but it was just always an interest for me, the human body, how it works, what makes things go wrong,” she says.

Murphy spent more than a decade fighting for a place in medical school, before finally being accepted into the RCSI in May of this year. Following numerous setbacks and refusals, it was a late miscarriage in 2016 that inspired her to keep pursuing her goal.

“The day we buried our son, I said this is the worst day of my life, it never gets worse than this, so no matter how much people laugh at me, no matter how many times I hear ‘no’, it will never be worse than this,” she explains.

Reflecting on her age entering into the course she says, “Do I regret that I”m older? Yes…but I can’t make myself younger, so my only options are do it now, or regret it forever”.

“I would regret it on my deathbed, so I’m doing it now,” she adds.

Murphy will walk through the doors of the RCSI for her first day on September 20th and expects that day to be very emotional, considering the 11 year journey to get there.

“I can’t put into words how grateful I am that they see something in me…they’re taking a chance on me, I’m not your traditional medical student,” she says.

Offering advice to anyone considering a return to education in later life, Murphy says: “There’s no such thing as being too old, you can do anything at any age”.

“You don’t have to have a certain accent or look a certain way to be a medical student or any student, you can be from any background,” she adds.

“There’s nothing special about me, I’m just someone who’s very determined, motivated and refuses to give up”.

Listen back to this conversation in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search The Women’s Podcast in your favourite podcast app.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times