Martha L. Sacci, 69, reshaped Hopkins nursing program

August 07, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Martha L. Sacci, who during her tenure as vice president of nursing services at Johns Hopkins Hospital revolutionized the institution's nursing program, died Monday of emphysema at a hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. She was 69.

Miss Sacci, who had lived since 1997 in a nursing home in Ryebrook, N.Y., formerly resided in Newburyport, Mass., and Towson.

Miss Sacci, who was the first Hopkins head of nursing to be named vice president of nursing services, had been chairwoman of the department of nursing at the New England Medical Center Hospital in Boston for seven years before coming to Baltimore in 1976.

At the Boston hospital, she had been instrumental in the merger of the New England Medical Center Hospital, the Rehabilitation Institute, the Boston Dispensary and the Boston Floating Hospital for Children.

"I had a hard time getting her to come to Hopkins," said Dr. Robert Heyssel, former president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and president emeritus of the board of trustees of Johns Hopkins Health System, yesterday.

Dr. Heyssel credited her with re-creating the East Baltimore medical institution.

"She was a tireless worker who turned nursing around at Hopkins. She made it much better than it had ever been. She appointed talented young people and monitored performances. She set the standards for what was appropriate and what wasn't, and she was wonderful at delegating authority," he said.

"She had an extraordinary vision for nursing, and she wasn't afraid to take bold moves in creative directions. The way she embraced decentralization placed the nursing strengths closer to the bedside of patients," said Dr. Judy Reitz, senior vice president of operations at Johns Hopkins Hospital, whom Miss Sacci hired in 1981.

Dr. Reitz described her as "very direct and plain-spoken," and a "zealot when it came to the subject of advancing patient care and the role that nursing care plays in it."

Standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, with rimless glasses and speaking always in a strong, confident voice, Miss Sacci was "striking in the way she carried herself," said Dr. Reitz.

"She always commanded the respect of both the administration as well as her medical colleagues," she added.

Miss Sacci retired from Hopkins Hospital in 1987 and moved to Newburyport.

Born and raised in Fairmont, W. Va., Miss Sacci graduated from St. Peter's Parochial School there and earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York in 1951. She earned a master's degree in nursing service administration from Boston University in 1957, and completed a residency in 1958 in nursing service administration at Boston University and the New England Medical Center Hospital.

She began her career as a staff nurse at Fairmont (W.Va.) General Hospital in 1951, where she later was promoted to staff nurse, head nurse, and assistant director of nursing services. From 1958 until 1963, she was the hospital's director of nursing.

She held various nursing administrative positions at Monmouth (N.J.) Medical Center and Automedic Inc. in East Orange, N.J., until she joined the New England Medical Center Hospital as director of the nursing department in 1969.

While a Towson resident, she was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Fairmont.

She is survived by a brother, Dr. John B. Sacci Sr. of Mount Kisco, N.Y.; an aunt, Constance A. Fitzgerald of Newbury, Mass.; two nephews, John B. Sacci Jr. of Homeland and Thomas E. Sacci of Southport, Conn.; and several grandnephews.

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