'A dedicated guy'; Holden physician stricken with Ebola seen as man with a mission.

AuthorSpencer, Susan

Byline: Susan Spencer and Craig S. Semon

From the time he was a young boy, Richard A. Sacra wanted to be a missionary doctor.

The 51-year-old, who was developing a medical residency program in Liberia, was described by family and colleagues Wednesday as a devout Christian dedicated to serving others at home and abroad.

Dr. Sacra, a Family Health Center of Worcester family physician, was working with a missionary group when he contracted the Ebola infection. He is the third American to be infected while working in Liberia.

He graduated in 1989 from University of Massachusetts Medical School and holds a faculty appointment at the medical school as an assistant professor of Family Medicine & Community Health.

Douglas Sacra of Wayland, Dr. Sacra's older brother, said in a phone interview Wednesday, "He knew since he was about 10 that he wanted to be a missionary doctor.''

Dr. Sacra had been in Liberia periodically since 1995. His three children grew up there, according to Mr. Sacra. Whenever his brother was home from his missionary work, he worked with the Family Health Center of Worcester, Mr. Sacra said.

"He's always been a dedicated guy,'' he said.

In an interview Wednesday at Family Health Center's Queen Street health center, Dr. Gregory A. Culley, chief medical officer and Dr. Sacra's supervisor when he was working stateside, said that Dr. Sacra indicated in his latest email last week that the equipment to protect health care staff from the deadly virus had just arrived.

Dr. Sacra had left Worcester for Liberia in early August, pushing up his original late-August departure because of the exploding Ebola crisis, Dr. Culley said.

He was delivering babies at a hospital established by the Charlotte, N.C.-based Serving in Mission missionary group, and was developing a family medicine residency program there.

Bruce Johnson, president of SIM missionary group, said at a press conference Wednesday that Dr. Sacra is receiving treatment in Liberia. It is not known if Dr. Sacra will return to the U.S. for treatment. He is currently in isolation in Liberia, Mr. Johnson said.

"He is one of the bravest persons and the best Christian I've ever known,'' Dr. Culley said. "It's not rational; it's a calling. It's a giving up of self to serve others.''

Dr. Culley said he heard about Dr. Sacra's illness around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"I was devastated,'' he said. "I was not surprised. I half-expected it. But it's a serious emotional blow.''

Calling Dr. Sacra the...

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