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Testa retires as Excela Health System's first 50-year employee

| Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 7:46 p.m.
Margie Testa

At age 17, Margie Testa, a Greensburg High School graduate, thought working for her hometown hospital was a good way to serve the community.

“At first it was convenient, then it became a mission,” she said.

A half century later, Westmoreland Hospital bid a fond farewell to the woman who was known as a good listener and a person who knew the right words of sympathy.

Testa retired on July 31.

Testa holds the distinction of being what is now Excela Health System's first 50-year employee.

She was hired in 1962 to support the fundraising to build a home for nursing students, which today houses Behavioral Health Services.

As a member of the clerical pool, she learned to operate the hospital's first copier.

Testa witnessed the hospital's first stress test as part of the Comprehensive Health Evaluation Center, which offered physicals to company executives and pre-admission testing for patients.

Testa learned phlebotomy skills, but she admits she often grew faint during blood draws.

She preferred the role of registrar, where she mastered the first automated medical record.

Her skills came to use in the purchasing, education and customer service until she found her true calling 30 years ago as a secretary to the pastoral services department.

Hundreds of students relied on her compassion as they trained in the clinical pastoral education program.

Testa's influence on these soon-to-be chaplains would be long-lasting as they provided emotional support to patients, families and staff. “It was wonderful to see the transformation the ... students would have as a result of their experiences,” she said.

Although the training program concluded long ago, Testa remained a valued resource to the various clergy who called on hospitalized members of their flocks and to volunteer chaplains.

Her work in pastoral services led to her designation as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International.

She's already received countless offers to volunteer in area parishes.

As a member of St. Paul Parish in Carbon, Testa also supported the priests assigned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg to Westmoreland Hospital.

When she became secretary to pastoral Services in 1983, the Rev. Ron Simboli was serving the spiritual needs of hospital patients.

Over the past three decades, she's ministered alongside diocesan priests and Benedictines from St. Vincent Monastery.

“Together we have supported the local congregations in their ministry,” said Testa, chairwoman of the internal aid committee for the Westmoreland Hospital Employees Charitable Trust Fund.

“Helping people in their time of need is what it's about,” Testa said. “In health care you don't deal in products like nuts and bolts. You deal with people and their lives. I've witnessed some extreme changes in health care but it always comes back to how we treat people and how they are doing while they are in our care.”