The Story of Nurse & Nation Builder - Olivia "Olive" Douglas -Nee Bryan
From St. Thomas, Jamaica to Portsmouth, Dominica:By Gabriel J. Christian, Esquire
Nurse Olivia Douglas Nee Bryan was born in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica, on April 4, 1941. She travelled to the United Kingdom in the late 1950s to study nursing; while at nursing school, she befriended and then married the late Michael "Mike" Douglas, who was then a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force. Douglas was the first son of the most famous Dominican planter/politician/hotelier of the last century, Robert Bernard Douglas, known in Dominica as "RBD." By thrift and dint of industrious effort, RBD had travelled to Curacao during World War II and made a small fortune in that Dutch island's oil industry. Returning to Dominica, RBD bought the largest estate in the island's north and invested in a cinema, guesthouse, supermarket, and a small coastal vessel.
In a fascinating 2022 interview, Nurse Douglas recounted her life in nursing and nation-building to Dominica-born attorney Gabriel J. Christian, who knew Nurse Douglas as a student leader when he campaigned for the island's independence alongside her husband Mike and his younger brother Roosevelt "Rosie" Douglas. During the build-up to Dominica's independence from Britain, Mike was then Minister of Communications and Works and later Minister of Agriculture in the pre-independence Dominica government. Rosie Douglas is known to history as the leader of the 1969 Sir George Williams University protest by Caribbean students in Canada. Before becoming Dominica's Prime Minister in 2000, Douglas became one of the best-known Caribbean Black Power advocates, socialist and Pan-Africanist. For a while, Douglas served as the Executive Director of World Mathaba in Libya, aiding the African National Congress to overthrow the apartheid regime then ruling South Africa. In the interview, Douglas speaks of her role in nursing as Dominica moved from colonial rule to independence on November 3, 1978.
INTERVIEW - (83) Of Heritage, Healthcare & Community Service -An Interview with Nurse Olivia "Olive" Douglas - YouTube
As a member of the most prominent Dominican political family, Nurse Douglas becomes a leader in developing that island's well-respected community-based healthcare system. Nurse Douglas was at the forefront of campaigns to eradicate diseases such as yaws (a chronic bacterial infection of the skin, joints, and bones) and promoted community health projects that significantly reduced worm infestation in the north of the island. Douglas later became an instructor at Dominica's nursing school. In 2022, the Government of Dominica dedicated a new community health centre in honour of her work to improve healthcare on the island. Even in retirement, Nurse Douglas – or "Nurse" as she is commonly known to all in her community- volunteers to assist at-risk and marginalized youth through the CALLS youth leadership training project. The motto of CALLS is "Where adolescents learn to love and serve."
Nurse Douglas was honoured with Dominica's Meritorious Service Award in 2006, having rendered over forty years of faithful and dedicated service in the nursing field to the nation. A widow (Mike Douglas passed away in 1992 of cancer), Nurse Douglas is the mother of Robert Douglas, an architect; Ian Douglas, an attorney and former MP for Portsmouth; and Hakim Douglas, an IT professional.
Though born in Jamaica, Nurse Douglas' has given her life's work to Dominica. Her monumental contributions to nation-building in Dominica speak eloquently to the value of service to the Caribbean nation and the unity and love that binds our people. Indeed, the extraordinary life work of Nurse Olivia "Olive" Douglas is worthy of commendation, emulation, and memorialization.
The Nurse Olive Douglas Health & Wellness Center at Portsmouth, Dominica