Cover photo for Erica L. Drazen's Obituary
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1946 Erica 2023

Erica L. Drazen

April 20, 1946 — November 25, 2023

Bedford, Massachusetts

Erica L. Drazen.  April 20, 1946-November 25, 2023

Of Bedford, Massachusetts, formerly of Winchester, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully on November 25, 2023. She was 77. Cherished wife of Jeffrey Drazen for 54 years; beloved mother of David and Dan; and doting grandmother to five grandchildren. The cause of her death was not clear, but a host of autoimmune conditions led to her declining health over the past few years.

Erica was at the forefront of women engineers while being a loving and caring parent who served her multiple communities – professional, civic, and personal – with creativity, wisdom, and determination.  Born to Joseph and Tillie Coburn in East Walpole, Massachusetts, she was the only women in her 1968 class at Tufts University to graduate from the School of Engineering. She went on to receive a MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and an ScD from the Harvard School of Public Health; the latter degree was completed while she was employed full time and caring for her family.  As one of the top students in her graduating class at Tufts,  the local chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, tried to induct her but the national organization did not allow this to occur because its charter stated that the honor was reserved for men with outstanding academic credentials.  Over 20 years later, she was admitted to the Tau Beta Pi with an apology for discrimination based on gender.

Her career in healthcare computing started in 1970 when she was hired by Cambridge-based Arthur D. Little (ADL) to manage the first, formal study of the effects of introducing computers into healthcare at the point of care, in this case to interpret the output of multiple monitoring devices in intensive care units.  Her continued work to identify the appropriate niche for computer technology helped shape the roles of computers in medical practice for which she received recognition from the American Medical Informatics Association. She built a new consulting practice devoted to this evolving field that continued to expand as public and private interest in the transition to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) grew.  After 26 years at ADL, Erica was recruited by First Consulting Group to found a practice devoted to research and sharing knowledge around EMRs and the implications of growing governmental requirements and regulations.

Erica was active in EMR research through publishing research articles, speaking at professional meetings, being a major participant in industry organizations, and co-authoring two books that laid out a vision for the then-future EMR industry.  She championed and mentored those she supervised, constantly breaking new ground in this emerging field, shattering gender-based stereotypes, and launching many of her staff into successful careers of their own. In a published debate from 2011 when asked how EMRs could change healthcare delivery, Erica said “By eliminating distance barriers, providing clinical decision support to both providers and patients, and creating databases that will allow us to examine care and measure the changes…” Erica’s vision from over a decade ago remains true today.

Erica retired from paid work in 2013. In retirement, she was an advisor to Tufts College of Engineering and served on the board of Revels, an annual musical and theatrical production that celebrates the Winter Solstice from different countries around the world. Erica was also President of the Winchester Seniors Association, which is the only privately owned senior center in Massachusetts.  During her tenure, programs were expanded, and she led a very successful fundraising campaign that put the Association on a firm financial footing. 

When she was not working in a professional setting or volunteering, Erica was fiercely dedicated to her two sons and her family. On the days that she missed her boys on the way out the door, Erica was known to drive the route to their elementary school to give them a kiss. She enjoyed cheering Dave on at his high school wrestling matches, playing tennis with Dan, and supporting her husband’s work at the New England Journal of Medicine.

Erica enjoyed spending countless hours tending to the gardens at her Winchester and Nantucket homes, always searching for that one last weed to pull. Starting in the 1980s, she become renown for baking and sharing dozens of different types of holiday-inspired cookies with family and friends, including pepparkakor, a traditional Swedish gingerbread cookie, and intricately decorated cookies in the shape of mice.  

A Memorial Service and Celebration of Life will be held in the Spring.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to a local food bank of your choice.

Arrangements under the care of Concord Funeral Home, 74 Belknap Street, Concord, MA 01742 978-369-3388  www.concordfuneral.com

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