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November 28, 2014
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Honoring a public health nurse

The Shared Facility Building in Liberty is going to be named after Gladys Olmsted, a nurse who initiated the programs in Sullivan County that eventually became Public Health Services.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
July 16, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — By all accounts, the late Gladys Olmsted was a force at the center of the creation of the Sullivan County Public Health Services, which lists a dozen programs to promote the health of county residents.

A post on the website of the Sullivan County Historical Society says Olmsted was, “a pioneer in public health nursing in Sullivan County. She began her career as the county’s first Public Health Nurse in 1951, in an ‘office’ with a dirt floor in the basement of the courthouse and retired 34 years later as the director of the Sullivan County Public Health Nursing Service. She saw great drama in public health nursing, ‘cutting down the rate of premature infant births, helping someone with polio move a muscle. How could you not be excited?’”

Myron Gittel, a member of the Sullivan County Historical Society, came to the government center on July 10, and suggested that the building from which Public Health Services operates, and which is currently called the Shared Clinic Facility, be named the Galdys Olmsted Building.

Gittel said Olmsted never worked in the building but she designed it. He said, “To whatever degree our public health is right now, we are heirs to her good works a generation ago, promoting public health.”

Legislator Kathy LaBuda said she has heard from many nurses regarding Olmstead, who died in 1997, and “I think it’s a great idea.”

Asked if there were any legal implications for naming the building after her, county attorney Sam Yasgur said it’s a matter of policy, and the legislature certainly has the right to change the name of a building.

But he suggested, “Maybe what you ought to do is create a wall of honor, with plaques in this building where you could honor people on a regular basis.” He added, “How many people in this room, when you go to the Travis Building [another county-owned building in Liberty], know who Travis was?” Two people out of perhaps 25 in the room raised their hand.

Yasgur said, “If you’re on the FDR drive, it’s just a road, no one thinks of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when they’re on the drive.”

Legislator Kitty Vetter, a former nurse, did not agree, and said she was in favor of naming the building after

Olmsted.

Legislator Cindy Gieger, a former public health nurse, said she was also in favor of naming the building after Olmsted to bring attention to the fact that public health has grown because of the initiative of one woman.”

All of the other legislators agreed that the name would be changed.