From St. Thomas Jamaica to Portsmouth, Dominica
The Story of Nurse & Nation Builder – Olivia “Olive” Douglas -Nee Bryan
Gabriel J. Christian, Esq.
(09 October 2023) — Nurse Olivia Douglas nee Bryan was born in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica on April 4, 1941. She traveled 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 on Dominica as “RBD.” RBD, by thrift and dint of industrious effort had traveled 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 north of the island and then invested in a cinema, guesthouse, supermarket, and 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 student leader 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 perhaps the best-known Caribbean Black Power advocate, and Pan Africanist. For a while, Douglas served as the Executive Director of World Mathaba in Libya aiding the African National Congress in its efforts to overthrow the apartheid regime then ruling South Africa. In the interview nurse Douglas speaks of her role in nursing, as Dominica moved from colonial rule to independence on November 3, 1978.
As a member of that most prominent Dominican political family, nurse Douglas becomes a leader in the development of 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 center in honor 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 her time 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 honored with the high honor of Dominica’s Meritorious Service Award in 2006, having rendered over forty years of faithful and dedicated service in the field of nursing 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 gave her all to Dominica. Her monumental contributions to nation-building in Dominica speaks eloquently to the value of service to the Caribbean nation and the unity and love that binds our people. Truly, the amazing life’s work of nurse Olivia “Olive” Douglas is worthy of commendation, emulation, and memorialization.
(The full interview of nurse Olivia Douglas is available here.}
(c) The Ward Post/Gabriel Christian