“I was influenced from an early age to become a doctor. My mother and I lived with my grandparents and my grandmother was wheelchair-bound; we never knew the cause. And when I was eleven, my grandfather died at home, of cancer. Then during high school, I volunteered for the March of Dimes, working with kids with polio. Later in college, I was a swimming director for the New York Times Fresh Air Fund and worked with the first mixed group of handicapped and "normal" children. That's when I was convinced I wanted to be a doctor!”
Carolyn B. Maloney
“BASIC HEALTH SHOULD BE A RIGHT FOR EVERYONE!”
Donna O'Hare exudes the enthusiasm, energy and commitment to children--and her native city--which surely prompted Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-14) to nominate her a Local Legend of Medicine , "deserving both praise and recognition for her countless contributions to the health of New York City as a doctor, advocate and professor."
"I have always loved children and helping them," exclaims O'Hare, who has dedicated much of her very distinguished career to improving children's health and welfare. "Basic health should be a right for everyone but especially pregnant women and children because they are our future!"
Although she began working with polio victims as a March of Dimes volunteer in high school and was a pre-med major at Sarah Lawrence College, a life in medicine was not a sure thing for O'Hare in the 1950s, when women faced great institutional resistance to their becoming physicians.
As she recalled in an earlier interview, "Women going into medicine were very high risk people and [it was assumed] they wouldn't continue in their careers. Women went into medicine because they loved medicine. Taking care of people was important. They weren't in medicine for the business of medicine; they were in medicine for medicine's sake."
In 1958, even though she was preparing to specialize in surgery during a surgical clerkship at St. Vincent's Hospital, she chose pediatrics instead. "My choice was pediatrics because I did enjoy working with children. I found them to be less complicated than adults, absolutely honest and much easier to deal with. I thought, if you could do something for children, you really changed the rest of their lives."
In 1967 she was appointed Director of the Department of Health's Bureau for Handicapped Children, the first of several municipal, state and national positions from which she would have a positive impact on children's lives, such as Assistant Commissioner of Maternal and Child Health Services for the New York City Department of Health, and serving on the state Department of Health Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Advisory Council, and the National Institutes of Health National Advisory Council on Child Health and Development.
From 1977 to 2004, she was Project Director of the Maternity, Infant Care-Family Planning Projects of the Medical Health Research Association (MIC-FP/MHRA), a citywide, community-based health service dedicated to low-income mothers and children. Under her leadership, the MIC provided child birth classes, family planning, social work services, and drug and HIV counseling with the goal of ensuring that healthy mothers have healthy babies, regardless of income.
Despite having retired in 2004, O'Hare continues to teach at NYU, where she is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, and contribute time to the Bellevue Hospital Children's Chest Clinic, of which she became Associate Director in 1978. Recognized by the New York Public Health Association with its "Award of Merit," the American Medical Association, the City of New York and many others, she retains her enthusiasm for her profession-"Medicine is a wonderful opportunity to do anything and go anywhere."-but is concerned for the future.
"I am disturbed about the insurance companies controlling medicine. Medicine is not a business; we' don't make cars. Good health is our future!"
Completes Pediatric Internship and Residency programs at Bellevue Hospital, the nation's oldest public hospital, founded in 1736
Becomes Diplomate, American Board of Pediatrics
Serves as Pediatrician for the Spina Bifida Project, Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center
Appointed Associate Attending Physician at both Bellevue Hospital and New York University Medical Center
Elected Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians
Chair, New York City Advisory Committee, Federally Funded Programs Title I, III, V, Multi-Handicapped Centers
Director, Bureau for Handicapped Children, New York City Department of Health
Project Director, Maternity, Infant Care-Family Planning Projects, Medical & Health Research Association (MIC-FP/MHRA) of New York City
Associate Director of the Children's Chest Clinic, Bellevue Hospital
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, New York University Medical Center
New York University School of Medicine