Alice M. Sundberg, 88, health department official

July 02, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Alice M. Sundberg, a retired Baltimore Health Department official and a Red Cross volunteer for more than 50 years, died Saturday from complications of a stroke at Roland Park Place retirement community. She was 88.

Miss Sundberg was a leader in improving the academic requirements for nurses and integrating the health department. She helped the Red Cross expand nursing and health programs to the inner city.

She joined the health department in 1946 as assistant director of community health nursing, was promoted to director in 1950 and retired in 1976.

"She ran a good department, and the nurses she supervised were happy with her," said Dr. Robert E. Farber, health commissioner from 1962 to 1975.

During Miss Sundberg's tenure, nursing developed such specialties as midwives and pediatric nurse practitioners, who could do everything a physician did except prescribe medications.

"The nurse's knowledge has been extended. She represents additional eyes, ears and hands for the physician," she told the News American in a 1976 interview.

Kay Wohlsen, retired associate professor of nursing at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and a friend for 52 years, said Miss Sundberg encouraged nurses to get more education.

"She used to say, `Let's upgrade,' and by the time she retired, three-quarters of them had their bachelor's degrees and were registered nurses," she said.

"Beginning in the early 1960s, she began to actively recruit black nurses and promote blacks to supervisory roles," Miss Wohlsen said.

In 1964, Miss Sundberg was a co-recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award, given by the American Nurse Association, for advancing minorities in nursing.

"A big difference when I started out in public health nursing and today is that we had no vaccines or drugs then for such communicable diseases as polio, mumps, measles, German measles and tuberculosis," she said in the 1976 interview. The development of vaccines has practically eliminated those diseases.

"She was always one to reach out to community organizations, and she worked tirelessly for the Red Cross. She worked on projects for homeless women, their safety and health. This was something that greatly concerned her," Miss Wohlsen said.

Miss Sundberg joined the Red Cross nursing committee in 1946 and worked with it until her death. In 1976, the organization named her national chairman of Red Cross nursing and health programs.

In 1973, she received the John T. Menzie Award, the Baltimore Red Cross chapter's highest honor, for "outstanding leadership in volunteer nurse programs." Ten years later, she was the second American to receive the International Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Red Cross Committee.

Miss Sundberg was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and earned a bachelor's degree from Coe College in 1932. Six years later, she became a registered nurse in Boston. She earned a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1949.

She held nursing positions in Boston and at Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health before she joined the city health department.

She was a member of University Baptist Church and enjoyed knitting garments for friends and the homeless.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. July 10 at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St.

She is survived by two nephews, John Sundberg of Marion, Ala., and Richard Sundberg of Tiburon, Calif.

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