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Eileen Hasselmeyer, former U.S. assistant surgeon general, dies at 91

Eileen Hasselmeyer, former U.S. assistant surgeon general, died

Eileen Hasselmeyer, former U.S. assistant surgeon general, died at the age of 91.

Eileen Hasselmeyer, clad in the white U.S. Public Health Service uniform she wore as assistant surgeon general, drew salutes from the West Point graduates at her grandnephew's 2005 ceremony.

There to administer his oath, Hasselmeyer "was elated," her nephew Edward Murtagh recalled, saying she had inspired his son's career in service. "He chose her; she was so honored that my son had asked her to do that."

Hasselmeyer, who lived most recently at The Amsterdam at Harborside in Port Washington, a senior care complex, died June 6 at age 91. The cause was cancer, her family said.

Hasselmeyer, a longtime health care administrator, worked as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. She became a top official at the National Institutes of Health, overseeing research and grant programs. And she was in demand on the lecture circuit as an expert on sudden infant death syndrome. She worked with physicians and parents to bring attention to the condition when little was known about it, her family recalled.

Hasselmeyer was born in 1924 and grew up in the Forest Hills section of Queens. She trained at the Bellevue School of Nursing. She was a member of the public health service and studied and worked 10 years at New York University, where she received a bachelor's degree in education in 1954, a master of science in administration in 1956, and a doctor of philosophy in nursing science in 1963. She rose through the ranks, becoming a rear admiral assistant surgeon general.

At the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Hasselmeyer was director of Perinatal Biology and Infant Mortality and chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch. She taught nursing students as a visiting professor at Yale University.

Hasselmeyer served from 1981 through 1989 largely under C. Everett Koop, considered one of the most influential surgeons general. She was co-author of two books about infants.

Her tenure under Koop was "one of the most rewarding" in her lifetime, Murtagh recalled. She was "very sincere and very objective about working for the government."

Hasselmeyer, who had no children and never married, doted on Murtagh and her extended family. Her success inspired some of her grandnieces and grandnephews to pursue careers in medicine and in the military.

Hasselmeyer was buried June 10 with military honors at St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, family said. In addition to Murtagh, of Boca Raton, Florida, she is survived by her niece Janet Pace of Howard Beach, Queens; three grandnephews; a grandniece; and a great-grandniece and a great-grandnephew.


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