Mary Florence Woody, 84: Nurse pioneer

As a nurse, Mary Woody was quick to access a patient and surmise his or her needs.

She had an excellent rapport with her staff and was always in a teaching mode, able to help nurses make keen observations about patient care.

"You manage things and lead people, and she knew how to lead people," said Jean Copeland, a former nursing supervisor who worked with Ms. Woody at Emory Hospital. "She worked well with other departments so that nurses could take care of patients, take care of families, work closely with doctors and not have to focus on activities that didn't involve nursing."

From the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, she served as assistant director of nursing at Emory University Hospital. Then she was hired as associate administrator and director of nursing at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she helped create new programs that included the state's first nurse midwifery service.

Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, a retired registered nurse and midwife who lives in Atlanta, was lured from Yale University by Ms. Woody to found Grady's midwifery program.

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"She understood nursing midwifery and the value of teamwork with medicine and administration," Dr. Sharp said. "It was very clear that she was a wonderful director.  She not only was major in establishing nurse midwifery at Grady, but she was a pioneer in the country."

On April 28, Mary Florence Woody of  Decatur and Lafayette, Ala., died at her residence from congestive heart failure. She was 84.  A funeral was held May 1 in Lafayette, her hometown. A memorial service will be 3 p.m. Sunday in Cannon Chapel at Emory University.

After high school, Ms. Woody attended Cadet Nurse Corps training at New Orleans' Charity Hospital. She worked as a staff nurse for the Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System in Montgomery and at Willard Parker Hospital in New York City. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia University, then returned to the South.

After stints at Emory Hospital and Grady, Ms. Woody was hired by Auburn University in 1979 to found its nursing school. Five years later, she returned to Emory University as director of nursing and associate dean of its nursing school.

In 1992, she served as interim dean at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff  School of Nursing.  She also served as the school's distinguished emeritus professor of nursing. She retired in 1993.

Ms. Woody was involved with district, state and national nursing associations, and encouraged others to do likewise. Colleagues say she was one of the few white nurses who pushed for the integration of such groups, and often sat by black nurses at meetings.

"She had the national perspective and involvement that made her much more able to function in her roles," Dr. Sharp said."That's why she had the ability and the background, and  the relationships across disciplines. We loved working for Mary because she knew what our professional roles could be, and she supported us in practicing the type care we wanted to give."

Ms. Woody had two brothers and three sisters, all deceased, and is survived by nieces and nephews. In Lafayette, they called her Florence.

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