CMS Connect Login:

Login Assistance

Modeling Diversity

Haitian roots spur glaucoma specialist
By Scott Warner

When Mildred M.G. Olivier chose to specialize in ophthalmology, she never imagined how her background would open her eyes to a world of caring. An American-born physician of Haitian descent, Dr. Olivier is a professor of surgery at the Chicago Medical School/Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, where she is director of diversity. She is also a past president of the Chicago Chapter of the Haitian Physicians Association, and the Midwest Association of Haitian American Women.

It was because of her Haitian parents’ influence that Dr. Olivier went into medicine. They immigrated to Chicago, where her mother became a nurse and her father a physician, and both did considerable volunteer work. Dr. Olivier, following their example, began volunteering for medical missions to Haiti beginning in 1993. Nothing prepared her for the destruction and agony she found when she arrived in that tiny nation 10 days after the cataclysmic earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010. With a densely packed population of nearly 10 million people, Haiti saw a staggering 300,000 of its citizens killed, with another 300,000 injured, and an estimated one million people left homeless.

Dr. Olivier came into this catastrophe, along with two other medical workers from Chicago. They spent a total of eight harrowing days serving at the Haitian Community Hospital near Port-au-Prince and the tent hospitals at the Toussaint Louverture Airport. Dr. Olivier assumed many tasks, such as training hospital staff and creating databases and a registration system. She also spent time pleading with hospitals for supplies and orthopedic equipment while other doctors battled infections and amputated limbs.

Dr. Olivier has since returned to Haiti numerous times, training physicians, and setting up a telehealth conference earlier this year. But Dr. Olivier has done much more than make a difference in health care in Haiti. Back in Chicago, in her role as director of diversity at the Chicago Medical School, Dr. Olivier works to alleviate health care disparities for minority populations, as well as help underrepresented students enter the health care field. She wants to increase the mentoring of minority students. “It’s not about lowering standards—it’s about going to public schools in the Chicago area, interacting with the children, nurturing them, bringing them to scientific and medical conferences, and getting them involved and interested.”

And Dr. Olivier doesn’t hesitate to use herself as a role model. “When I was in medical school, I was the only black student in my classes, and am now the only black glaucoma specialist in Chicago, and one of only a few African-American attending physicians. It’s been wonderful. I’ve been embraced by the entire medical community, and I want to inspire minority students to reach for the stars. We need more minority specialists—it’s not often the case that minorities are brought into specialties.”

Dr. Olivier also works to expose her students to minority populations and culture. One way is by capitalizing on her position as a board member at Chicago’s DuSable Museum, one of the oldest African-American history museums in the U.S. She brings her medical students there. “I like opening people’s eyes,” she says. “Then everybody wins.”

Dr. Oliveir’s Career Highlights

Mildred M. G. Olivier, MD, is president and founder of Midwest Glaucoma Center, PC, in Hoffman Estates. She earned her undergraduate degree at Loyola University of Chicago and her medical degree at the Chicago Medical School. She interned at Loyola Medical Center, and completed a residency in ophthalmology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and a fellowship in glaucoma at the Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University. Dr. Olivier has published widely and received numerous honors, including the American Glaucoma Society Humanitarian Award. She serves as professor of surgery at the Chicago Medical School and at John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County, where she says she enjoys challenging residents and being challenged by them. “They keep you on top of your profession with their questions.”

Document Actions

Join CMS

Why join?  The Chicago Medical Society offers many benefits, including career placement, advocacy, networking, and member to member collaboration. Click here to explore all the benefits of membership.

CMS Connect

CMS Connect is an exclusive community that allows members to discuss the issues impacting their practices today. Visit CMS Connect today.