Alumna Caroline Murtagh named 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar

Author: Erin Blasko

Murtagh Headshot Feature

University of Notre Dame alumna Caroline Murtagh has been named a 2021 Knight-Hennessy Scholar. She is Notre Dame’s second Knight-Hennessy Scholar after Alexis Doyle, a former Rhodes Scholar who won the award in 2019.

Established in 2016, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is an international graduate-level scholarship program that cultivates and supports a highly engaged, multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students at Stanford University in California.

First awarded in 2018, it covers tuition as well as academic, living and travel expenses for up to three years in support of any graduate or professional degree at Stanford.

In applying for the award, Murtagh, of Andover, Massachusetts, worked closely with the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), which promotes the intellectual development of Notre Dame undergraduates through scholarly engagement, research, creative endeavors and the pursuit of fellowships.

“We are thrilled that in its first four cohorts the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program has already selected two outstanding Notre Dame alumni to join them. Caroline is truly deserving of this opportunity. The work that she has undertaken at Notre Dame with the Kellogg Institute, in Uganda with the Fulbright Program and in Massachusetts and Florida with Partners In Health has demonstrated that not only is Caroline an exceptional scholar, but also an exceptional public servant,” said Jeffrey Thibert, the Paul and Maureen Stefanick Director of CUSE. “She already has been a force for good in the world, and the medical education she receives at Stanford combined with the leadership training and mentoring she receives as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar will allow her to expand the scope of her ability to do good even further.”

Murtagh is a 2019 Notre Dame graduate, and former Fulbright student, with a degree in biological sciences and international development studies. As an undergraduate, Murtagh served as a resident assistant in Pasquerilla West Hall and as the co-chair of the 2019 Human Development Conference. She was co-president of Aquatic Relief for Kids and an officer for Special Friends Club.

Away from campus, Murtagh traveled to Uganda to shadow and learn in rural clinics. After witnessing the devastating impact that blood shortages had on patients, she returned to Uganda the following summer to partner with blood collection agencies in Kampala to research facilitators and barriers toward blood donation. She was the recipient of the Rev. Ernest J. Bartell, C.S.C., Prize for Undergraduate Research on Poverty and Development, and her work has been published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine.

After graduation, Murtagh worked with Partners in Health to support post-Ebola health system strengthening efforts in Liberia and later as a case investigator and unit lead with the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative in Massachusetts. She currently serves as a project manager with the Partners in Health U.S. Public Health Accompaniment Unit, where she accompanies  stakeholders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in Immokalee, Florida, to implement an effective and equitable COVID-19 response.

As a Knight-Hennessy Scholar, Murtagh plans to pursue a doctorate at Stanford School of Medicine. Professionally, she aspires to partner with historically marginalized communities, engage in multi-sector collaboration and advance the equitable redistribution of resources to alleviate structural causes of health inequities

“I am deeply grateful to my family, friends, professors and mentors who have accompanied me throughout this journey of personal and professional development,” Murtagh said. “In particular, I’d like to thank Dr. Jeff Thibert, who guided me throughout this process with encouragement and compassion, as well as Professor Steve Reifenberg, Professor Erin McDonnell, Professor Terence McDonnell, Holly Rivers and Dr. Amy Stark, whose endless support fostered transformative academic growth throughout my time at Notre Dame.”

She continued, “I am also incredibly grateful for my colleagues at Partners In Health, especially Dr. Daniel Palazuelos, Dr. Fernet Leandre and our team of COVID-19 health promoters, who have shown me the importance of empathy, resilience and humility in advancing accessible and equitable health care systems.

“I seek to use the privilege that comes with being a physician to both accompany patients in underserved settings and to partner with communities in addressing the underlying structural causes of health inequities in order to operationalize health care as a human right.”

For more on this and other fellowship opportunities, visit

Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127,

Originally published by Erin Blasko at on May 06, 2021.