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A Tribute to Mary Englerth

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Dr. Laszlo Madaras with Mary Englerth
MCN's Dr. Laszlo Madaras with Mary Englerth, PA, in front of Keystone Health. 

By Laszlo Madaras, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer for the Migrant Clinicians Network

The end of May 2020 saw the end of the amazing life of Mary Englerth. Mary was a champion health care worker who put her heart into migrant farmworker health, and her life was full of caring. She received a Bachelor of Arts in music and later completed a PhD in music from Immaculata College. As a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she taught music for many years to high school students in Lima, Peru. There, on May 31st 1970, she witnessed a devastating earthquake in the central mountain area of Peru which killed 80,000 people.  Mary went into the mountains with a rescue team to help.  This provided a life-changing experience for her, causing her to reflect on her future life and moved her towards becoming a health clinician and eventually studying to become a Physician Assistant. After entering the Maryknoll Sisters of Saint Dominic, she received a Master's of art and religious studies at the Maryknoll School of Theology.  She then returned to Peru to provide rural health education for women. 

She went to St. Louis University in 1979 and completed a program as a certified Physician Assistant in 1981.  Then she returned to Peru for three years as a staff clinician in the Peru- Ecuador region. She was known there as the "bionic woman." By the time she returned to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to help her aging mother in 1989, she was an experienced clinician, probably more experienced in rural medicine than most physicians who just completed residency. She began her work with the Pennsylvania migrant farm community and, along with Joanne Cochran, helped put together a health program for poor and migrant farmworkers working in agriculture in South Central Pennsylvania, which eventually grew to become Keystone Health, a federally qualified health center. During that time, she spent months at a time volunteering in the Highlands of Guatemala on several mission trips. In 1995, I came as a family medicine resident to spend time at the Keystone Health and found myself amazed by the depth of experience that that Federally Qualified Health Center had collected over the years including Mary Englerth’s. For over a decade, Mary became a mentor to me in the care of the poor and the underserved. 


MCN's Dr. Laszlo Madaras, Dr. Ed Zuroweste, Nurse Practitioner Candace Kugel pose for a photo with Keystone staff including Mary Englerth
MCN's Laszlo Madaras, Ed Zuroweste, and Candace Kugel visit with Keystone staff.

Mary was amazing in many different ways.  Her talent for music, her fluency with a Spanish language, her instincts as a clinician were second to none. She also knew more about the Pittsburgh Steelers football team of the 1960s and 70s then any Catholic nun that I have ever known.

I was honored to speak at her memorial service a few weeks ago and share stories with others who knew her well.  Mary had worked up to the last weeks of her life, living within walking distance of the Keystone ag program. She walked with a cane for years now, and always felt comfortable walking through the migrant camps at all hours of day or night knowing that no one would harm her as everyone had such a deep respect for her. 

I was lucky to have such a person in my life. 



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