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Aleppo home health pioneer led hall-of-fame life

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Cathy Frasca, 86, poses for a portrait at her Masonic Village apartment Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. Frasca was recently inducted into the National Association for Home Care & Hospice's Hall of Fame for her dedication to the care and service of others.

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By Joanne Barron
Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Cathy Frasca retired 15 years ago, but her efforts to help others by creating a home health care agency and urging hospitals to offer the service still are making a difference today.

For her work in the home health care industry, Frasca, 86, of Aleppo was inducted into the National Association for Home Care & Hospice Hall of Fame this month at its convention in Washington.

She was among six selected this year and 44 inducted since 2011 for their leadership, sense of innovation, commitment to the aged, disabled and ill and their efforts to raise public awareness of what home care and hospice are and the services they provide, said Barbara Woolley, NAHC public relations director.

Frasca said, “It was special that people remembered me after all these years, but even more special” to be linked to an award that was given to “famous people” such as Christopher Reeve this year and to Mother Teresa and former President Bill Clinton in the past. Frasca was nominated by past winners and friends.

She graduated from nursing school at Mercy Hospital 65 years ago, and obtained a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 1960. Later, Frasca established the South Hills Health System Home Health Agency in Homestead, and worked to develop home health care departments in many area hospitals.

Mary Ann Schmidt of Uniontown, who worked with Frasca at the agency for 28 years, said Frasca was “always there with a helping hand and she mentored everyone, because she so believed in and was so passionate about home care.”

Frasca said when she first worked as a registered nurse, all administrators were men, and nurses were not supposed to rise above a certain level.

“But I learned to fight my way through,” she said. She tried four times before getting elected to NAHC's board, so that she could work to establish more home care programs in local hospitals and those broad.

She has traveled to several countries to make presentations and help hospitals develop such programs. She was a guest lector at Cornell University; wrote chapters in national and international home health care policy books; helped to develop publications focusing on home care guidelines and a training manual for Medicare and Medicade Home Health Agency surveyors; was featured in national and international home health care and medical magazines; and served on a home health agency advisory board for Sewickley Valley Hospital (now Heritage Valley Sewickley hospital).

She testified on Capitol Hill before the Senate Special Committee on Aging to successfully lobby for Medicare coverage for respiratory and occupational therapy, and has received awards from NAHC, other agencies, universities and organizations.

After Frasca graduated from nursing school, the Penn Hills native worked at St. Francis Hospital in Florida, where she was the first nurse permitted to give intravenous therapy. When she moved back to the Pittsburgh area, she worked as a Veterans Administration staff nurse; University of Pittsburgh researcher; and then as home care director at the former Homestead Hospital.

As the Homestead program grew quickly, she said, she realized how much of a need there was for hospital-based home health care and how much it helped patients. That's when she founded South Hills Health System Home Health Agency, and helped other hospitals create programs. A smaller version of the agency continues to operate at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, she said.

Frasca is vice president of the Kane Foundation Board, which runs the four Kane Regional Centers for long-term care.

When she retired, she was guest of honor at 10 parties thrown by various hospitals where she helped to establish programs.

She and her late husband, Philip, lived in Point Breeze and have two daughters, Cheryl Shaw and Debbie Kesicki. Frasca now has four grown grandchildren.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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