Mauricus Murdock, a Miami Herbert Business School master’s student, earned an internship this summer with the Broward Health system, a critical professional opportunity for a young man who continues to rehabilitate from a devastating accident.
When he’s out shopping or just about anywhere in public, Mauricus Murdock has gotten used to people staring at him. They may watch him packing his groceries or performing other mundane tasks, then rolling himself to his car, loading his bags and wheelchair, and driving off.
“I just see their jaws drop, like, ‘how’s he doing this?’ So many people underestimate me, but I’ve learned that you can’t be limited by what other people think or tell you that you can do,” said Murdock. “I just say, ‘thank you, but I’ve got this.’ I’m not wheelchair bound; I’m temporarily in a wheelchair and I can do basically everything that you can do.”
Murdock is on track to graduate this fall from the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School with a Master of Health Administration, an 18-month specialized master’s-degree program. This summer, as part of the program’s coursework, he’s completing an internship at Broward Health’s Imperial Point, where his many projects include helping assess compliance and procedures for the hospital to improve its HCAHPS scores that relate to patient satisfaction, patient-doctor relationship, and other criteria.
“Mauricus really stood out for us in the interview when we realized how willing he was to learn, that he had done his research and knew more about our organization than most other interns, and just hearing his story demonstrated that he was not someone who shies away from challenges,” explained Faith-Simone Hunte, corporate director of Employee Relations and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and who supervises the internship program for Broward Health.
The summer training is bridging his own experience as a patient. In January 2018, on the last day of winter break before heading back to his Tennessee college, Murdock was a passenger in the back seat of a 1998 Ford Explorer, just 10 minutes from home. He was traveling with three other passengers—two of them friends since childhood—when the Explorer collided with two new Mustangs that were drag racing.
He was the only survivor pulled from the wreckage of the Explorer. The drivers of the Mustangs were both left paralyzed for life. The accident required the amputation of Murdock’s lower left leg and launched a year of intense rehabilitation.
Hospitals have been part of his life since he was a young boy growing up in inner-city Memphis, Tennessee, and in ways that no one would ever wish.
Murdock was five when his mother died, just a few days after her 21st birthday, of clogged arteries. His grandmother, who he called “Momma” and with whom he enjoyed a relationship that was far more akin to mother/son than grandmother/grandson, died suddenly when he was in the sixth grade. He remembered the morning she dropped him off at school. “I love you, have a good day, I’ll pick you up later,” she promised.
But she never did. His grandmother collapsed during her break at work. They rushed her to the hospital, but she had already slipped into a coma and died soon after.
Murdock’s uncle and his wife, already with four other children, took him in through middle school and into high school.
“My uncle raised me through those pivotal years and helped me become a man, and he was like a dad even to my friends. We didn’t always get along, and it wasn’t until he passed in 2019 that I realized all that he tried to instill in me in terms of vision, setting goals, and realizing your dreams,” Murdock said.
His uncle used a wheelchair for the years Murdock lived with the family. An auto mechanic, he had gotten an infection in his foot at a construction site. It went untreated. He had diabetes, and the complications required that his uncle’s foot be amputated.
“It was almost like a crazy foreshadowing story,” Murdock said.
Though he was a bit of a class clown and sometimes in trouble, Murdock was always at the top of his class in terms of grades and academics. He credits his grandmother with making education a priority.
“She always told me: ‘Son, you are incredibly smart, you read and speak so well, you can spell so many words that kids your age can’t, and you know so much. So, study hard and education will take you wherever you want to go,” Murdock recounted.
He graduated from Germantown High School, in the suburbs of Memphis, then enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he first studied to become a nurse. In his sophomore year, he shifted majors to focus on exercise science with the intention of becoming a physical therapist. He made the change the semester before the car accident.
Murdock spent several months at home bedridden, and family members took time off work to provide care, helping him roll over or just sit up. The situation took a financial and emotional toll, and Murdock admitted that he struggled mentally and physically.
“My mom had died, my grandma died, and not only did I lose my leg, but I had lost two of my very best friends. I always thought I was strong, but this particular situation pushed me to an end that I didn’t know I had,” he confessed.
Yet after a time, he managed to push past the heartache.
“Something clicked in me. And a voice said: ‘I know you’re sitting here feeling bad for yourself, but those people you loved are gone and they’re not coming back. But you don’t know when your time will come. So, you’re strong and you’re capable and you have goals and places you want to see and things you want to do, and you can do them,’ ” Murdock declared, adding that he is often motivated to take action to honor those he has lost.
After months of only minimal movement—physical therapy was rough—he persevered. Dr. Sandra Fletchall, his therapist and the manager of burn management at the Regional One Health’s burn center where he was treated, motivated him and helped acquire a series of prosthetic devices until they got a good fit and he learned to walk again.
“Sandy was amazing. Even though I was an exercise science major, I never realized that so much goes into something as simple as standing and walking,” he noted.
In August of that year, he reenrolled at his college taking online classes. By January, he made the decision to go back to campus. By that time, he had taught himself how to drive again. Family members helped him load up the car, and someone trailed him on the drive back to school.
He was determined to finish and did, earning his B.S. in exercise science. After graduation, he opted for some time off.
“After the accident and that coming awake moment, I had never processed how my life was really altered,” he said. “I didn’t talk about what happened and wasn’t really open about my feelings—I would just give generic answers.”
He took six months in 2021 just for himself, traveled to Jamaica, to New York City, to Las Vegas, and to visit friends in Atlanta, a time for self-reflection and spiritual healing.
A call from his friend Malik Mayweather, who was just graduating from the University with a Master of Health Administration, opened the next door.
“Malik told me the master’s had been a wonderful experience and that he knew my story and that I’d be great for the program,” Murdock recalled. He researched the school and applied. He also applied to a similar program at another college. Murdock was far from confident that he would be accepted at the University, even after an upbeat phone interview.
“Though everyone had told me I’d get in, I had a lot of self-doubt. But the following week I got the acceptance letter that I was in,” he said. “I had done some things in my life and traveled, but now moving to a totally different city? That was a big leap and a bold adventure, yet something I’d always wanted to do.”
Murdock said that he is “really ready” to graduate. He’s super satisfied with his experience, and the rigor of the program has made him a more studious and engaged student. His favorite class has been a public health class, team-taught by Donna Shalala, former University president and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.
“To take a class with someone who basically wrote HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and other health care policy and laws with the U.S. government, that’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else. The class was intense, but it was great,” he admitted.
While there are many internships for students, not all come with financial compensation. And Murdock was one of just 25 students who earned the paid training with his opportunity at Broward Health.
“I feel like this is the perfect internship for me,” Murdock said. “They have given me a lot of autonomy, asking me what I want to do, instead of simply assigning tasks. “And I’m working on a ton of projects right now.”
The administrative component that seeks to improve patient satisfaction and ensure for follow-up care is certainly a passion for Murdock. He’s engaged with the compliance team exploring discharge and other procedures.
He has narrowed his choices for after graduation. Murdock has decided on applying for an fellowship with Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.
His internship coordinator at Broward Health may attempt to alter his choices though.
“Mauricus has been a tremendous asset to our organization so far, and we’re hoping to keep him close,” said Hunte. “He checked all the boxes for the internship. We look for students who demonstrate leadership acumen and the awareness of social responsibility. We look for well-rounded students, it’s not just about grades,” Hunte added. “With the internship program, we’re looking to create that career pipeline. And what more could you ask from a potential employee?”
What has Murdock learned from the extraordinary river of trials and tribulations he has navigated in his life so far?
“To really believe in yourself, really push the limits, and never to live by the status quo,” Murdock responded. “I really thank my grandmom for so much. She was the one who made me take academics seriously,” he added.
“I’m a good self-motivator,” Murdock continued. “Many people need someone to pat them on the back to keep them going, but I don’t need that. I listen to myself, listen to what I want, and to my heart’s desires. And I go out and do what I need to do to get where I want to go.”