Dr. Margaret Sherrard Hamberry, 78, health department director

July 29, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. Margaret Sherrard Hamberry, retired director of the Baltimore County Health Department who planned and directed large-scale 1950s polio immunizations, died Thursday of ovarian cancer at her North Baltimore home. She was 78.

An advocate for public health issues in the Baltimore County schools system, the Homeland resident retired in 1994 after 40 years with the Health Department.

"She was the most honest, down-to-earth, pragmatic, common-sense individual you'd ever know," said Dr. J. David Nagel, an internist who lives in Butler. "She could size up a situation quickly and make a good judgment."

She was born Margaret Lee Sherrard and raised in Weston, W.Va. She studied music at Seton Hill College in Greensburg, Pa., but switched to pre-med in her senior year when the results of an aptitude test suggested a career as a doctor.

She earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1949 and later earned a master's in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

She did her internship and residency in surgery at what is now Mercy Medical Center -- the hospital's first female intern and resident, according to Sister Mary Thomas Zinkand, R.S.M., Mercy's former president.

It was at Mercy that Dr. Sherrard met her future husband, Dr. Leonard Hamberry, a surgeon who survives her. After the couple married in 1952, Dr. Sherrard continued to use her maiden name professionally.

After a year in private practice, she joined the county Health Department in 1954 and served as medical director for tuberculosis control and director of school health. In 1988, she became the first woman to serve as director of the Baltimore County Department of Health. She retired in 1994.

"She used to say that in her career she saw diseases like polio and measles nearly disappear, only to face new diseases like HIV and a resurgence of conditions like tuberculosis," said her daughter, Elizabeth Sherrard Hamberry of Baltimore.

Early in her career, Dr. Sherrard led a large public health polio immunization effort in county schools. As director of school health -- the county had 110,000 students at the time -- she developed a widely praised partnership between her department and the Board of Education. She initiated a program of school-based wellness centers staffed by nurse practitioners.

"She cared very deeply for the health of the community," said Dr. Barbara McLean, communicable diseases staff physician at the county Health Department. "She was always fair, even-handed and looked out for her employees."

"She was the first woman president of the Baltimore County Medical Association in 1960," said Dr. Esther Edery Dibos, a retired Towson pediatrician. "She was extremely active in the society. She was a person of great, firm convictions and a tremendous worker. She was a very complete woman."

A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she researched her family's origins and organized a reunion.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St., where she was a member.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Dr. Sherrard is survived by a son, David Hilary Hamberry of Annapolis; a sister, Elizabeth Sherrard Jones of Weston; and a granddaughter.

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