By Nicola Corless
A KILFENORA woman was recently named Hartford Connecticut’s St Patrick’s Day Parade Person of the Year and will lead the parade alongside the Grand Marshall on Saturday.
Dr Pauline Nagle Olsen was commended on the honour by the Governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, and the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut, Nancy Wyman. Dr Nagle Olsen was also presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Congressman for Connecticut John B Larson at a ceremony to recognise her 40-years commitment to her community and her voluntary work, which has directly helped at least 30,000 of the city’s poorest inhabitants.
Dr Olsen is a founder of Malta House of Care, a mobile clinic providing free medical care to the uninsured in the greater Hartford area.
It is nearly 60 years since Pauline Nagle left her native North Clare, but despite making Farmington, Connecticut her home, she has returned many times over the years.
Having studied at UCD and completed an internship at the Mater Hospital, a young Pauline Nagle began a residency in internal medicine as a Columban missionary to South Korea in 1965.
“South Korea was a very different country at that time than what it is now. It experienced a huge development in the 1990s, when its economy really improved. I was there when they had suffered the consequences from the Korean War. I learned the language and worked in two different parts of the country, one clinic was very near the Demilitarised Zone on the east coast,” she recalled.
South Korea was very different to the Ireland she had left. She spent seven years there before moving to New York, eventually settling in Connecticut.
“While I was in South Korea I was practicing as a general practitioner, but I became very interested in women’s health and obstetrics and gynecology. So I came to the United States, and did a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at St Vincent’s Hospital in New York. I started that in July 1972 and was there three years. Then I did a fellowship in maternal foetal medicine at University of Connecticut in Hartford. Then back I went back to Korea again. After two years in Korea I came back to work in Hartford.
“The main reason was I got a job there and at that time there was a very good programme at St Francis Hospital here. I had worked there during my fellowship and I came back. I liked living there. It was not as hectic as New York and had made a lot of friends here,” she explained.
Pauline left the Columban order two years later. In 1979 she married engineer Zenon Olsen, a widower with two children, Linda and Gary. Despite both his parents being born in Poland, Zenny loved Ireland and made regular trips here with Pauline until his death in 1997.
After Pauline retired, she felt strongly that she wanted to be involved with doing something for the poorest people in Hartford.
“I really wanted to get involved in setting up something practical and of value, and it was a clinic for the uninsured. That clinic opened in August 2006 and a few of us had been looking for an office space in downtown Hartford and then, as we looked the idea came up that it would be nice to have a mobile van and go to the poor areas of the city, rather than have the people come to us by bus or walking. Now the van goes out four days a week to the areas that are obviously very poor, so the Main St, North End and South End and Asylum Hill areas,” Pauline outlined from her home in Farmington.
“W got the van from St Francis Hospital. They had used it previously to offer free mammograms but it had been retired. We always park at a church because they always have a parking lot. They also have a parish hall. We use the parish hall as a waiting room where we take patients details. We hold activities there too like teaching people about how to better take care of themselves, about how to maintain a healthy diet, about dealing with high blood pressure and about caring for themselves when they have various illnesses like diabetes,” she said.
The Malta House of Care currently has approximately 70 doctors and nurses, who volunteer regularly, as well as five employees.
“Since we opened we have had 30,000 patient visits. We give free care and if patients need x-rays and laboratory tests, we have a contract with St Francis’ and they get free testing. We also have contracts with chemists and major pharmaceutical companies,” she said.
“Our service is a win-win situation. The patients in these poorer areas win because they get the care they need but because we give them GP care it saves them from going to the emergency room, taking pressure off hospitals’ casualty departments,” Pauline added.
As well as being a founder of the mobile Malta House of Care unit, Pauline is also a founding member of a food pantry, which distributes food every weekend to the needy.
A reception was held in her honour at the Irish American Home in February and she was accompanied by her nephew, Cyril Nagle, also from Kilfenora, and her cousin, Eoin Fitzgerald, from Shannon.
Pauline was presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Congressman for Connecticut John B Larson on February 23.
She was also congratulated by State Governor Dannel P Malloy who said that being named Hartford’s St Patrick’s Day Parade Person of the year is “a testament to your outstanding community service and commitment to Connecticut’s Irish-American community.”
“Through pride in your Irish heritage and support of Irish-American organisations you have demonstrated a strong dedication to your community. Your passion, enthusiasm and leadership are truly laudable. This honour celebrates your many contributions to the people of the State of Connecticut,” he said.
She was also recognised by Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut Nancy Wyman.
“You have demonstrated exemplary leadership, care and compassion in your life as a citizen of Connecticut and member of the Greater Hartford community. Your involvement serves as an inspiration to all those who encounter your efforts,” Her Excellency Ms Wyman stated.