Dateline: Manhattan Beach CA
Dr. Olga E. Mohan, of Manhattan Beach, CA, and formerly of Milford, MA, passed away peacefully, with her loving family at her side, on January 15, 2019.
Olga was born in Milford, MA, the daughter of the late James and the late Olga (Calderara) Mohan. She was a graduate of Milford High School, Class of 1970 and the salutatorian of her class. She then attended Cornell University on a full scholarship. After graduation in 1974, she attended medical school in France and at the University of Athens. She then transferred to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and graduated with her MD degree in 1982. Over the following several years she became boarded in Pediatrics, Anesthesia and Pediatric Critical Care.
After marrying Fred Simmons in 1988, she moved to California and worked for many years at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA. At Harbor she was a professor at UCLA and worked in the hospital as a pediatric anesthesiologist and as an attending in Pediatric ICU. She also conducted research related to pain management. While working at Harbor, Olga raised three children and earned a Master of Public Health degree from UCLA. At Harbor, Olga also established a chapel in memory of her parents, James and Olga Mohan.
Throughout her life, Dr. Mohan manifested a profound commitment to reducing human suffering and promoting social justice and peace.
Her medical expertise in the area of critical care for children saved many lives and her caring personality brought comfort to their parents.
Olga is survived by her husband Fred and their children Carolyn, Michael, and Jim; her sisters Marie, Donna and Lorraine and her brothers, James and John, and their extended families.
Memorial donations may be made to support Dr. Olga Mohan High School, which has been listed in the top 1% of high schools nationwide by US News & World Report, at www.laalliance.org/pages_inc/online_donation.jsp
The following are excerpts from the speech presented by Olga’s husband, Fred Simmons, at the dedication ceremony of The Dr. Olga E. Mohan High School.
“ Rather than cite statistics of which we are all so proud, …, today I would like to humbly paint a picture for you of the story behind the new name of this school.
My dear wife, Olga Mohan, comes from a family of hard working immigrants. America, as we know, was founded as a nation of immigrants. Olga’s grandparents moved to the United States from Europe, initially uncertain of the opportunities they would find, but determined to make a better life for themselves and their children. Her father’s parents and his brothers were born and raised in Ireland. When her father was only 5, Olga’s grandfather died suddenly, leaving her grandmother alone to provide for 4 young children. While her parents urged the family to return home to Ireland, not seeing opportunity for her children there, she decided to stay here, working to get by and raise her family near Boston.
Olga’s mother’s parents were born and raised in Northern Italy and came to the United States when Olga’s mother was 2 years old. Olga’s grandfather worked in the granite quarries outside of Boston and died of lung disease when Olga’s mother was 5. Olga’s grandmother raised 4 girls and 1 boy alone, supporting them with only a small grocery store she kept in her garage on Main Street, in Milford, Massachusetts.
Both Olga’s grandmothers, each from Ireland and Italy, endured hard times, both lost children in infancy, both struggled during the Depression, and both lost their husbands at young ages. But they instilled in their children strength and determination that thrives today. Although my wife Olga never knew any of her grandparents, she inherited their sense of fulfilling a dream through hard work.
As I look in front of me at this incredible community, I see the smiling, optimistic faces of students and committed faculty and staff, family members and supporters of the Alliance and this school. With so many resources and teachers unwavering in their dedication to providing the best education possible, you have many opportunities. As students of this high school, you have support that many of us did not have. A better life and world lie within your grasp. I urge you to seize upon your potential and the possibilities before you. Should you choose to engage in the classroom, to work and study hard, your dreams lie within reach. But ultimately the path you carve for yourselves is up to you.
Olga exemplified that rare kind of commitment to her studies throughout her life. She graduated second in her class at Milford Public High School in Milford, Massachusetts, and received a full scholarship to Cornell University. In college she found her passion in medicine and set her sights on medical school when she graduated from Cornell in 1974. Unfortunately, it was especially difficult for those of us who graduated in the 70s to be accepted into medical school, and Olga was unsuccessful on her first attempt. So she packed her bags, brushed up on her French and enrolled in medical school outside of Lyons, France. However, only 1 out of 6 students completing their first year was accepted to continue, and Olga did not get accepted into the second year of medical school. Her family urged her to reconsider the wsdom of continuing down the path of becoming a physician. She had nothing saved but education IOUs, but she had no intention of giving up on her goal. The following year she moved to Greece, where she studied the Greek language and enrolled in medical school at the University of Athens about a year later. With classes held in Greek, Olga studied like she never had before, and after two years was able to transfer from Athens Medical School to Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia. Finally, at Hahnemann, Olga graduated President of her class with an M.D. Degree in 1982, and immediately began her residency in Pediatrics. After finishing her residency, Olga decided to become Boarded in anesthesia as well, so she transferred to the University of Denver where she completed an internship and residency and was ultimately Boarded in Anesthesia as well as Pediatrics.
It was around this time that I met Olga, but unfortunately for me, our long-distance relationship got even longer when she moved to Boston to undertake a Fellowship at Children’s Hospital with Harvard University in Pediatric Critical Care and Pain Management. After our marriage, Olga started as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Anesthesia at Harbor General Hospital on staff with UCLA Medical School. There, she ran the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Her Italian aunts and uncle from the old country quipped that finally, at the age of 36, she had a real job and was married ! In the years that followed, she also raised 3 children and got her Masters in Public Health at UCLA.
While I would say to the future graduates of this school, that inner drive and motivation are arguably the most important components of achieving your goals, the other critical aspect of seeking what you want is your attitude along the way, in which you handle those unpredictable punches that inevitably arrive. Although we may plan for the worst as we prepare our life’s roadmap, we simply can’t anticipate the struggles and curve balls and opportunities that life throws at us. No matter what those inner struggles are for each of you, know that you are not alone in facing them, as you are a member of this community.
Olga combined her inner drive with a remarkably positive and flexible outlook on life. In 2007, just about 3 years ago, Olga was formally diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. After our family recovered from the initial shock of the diagnosis, Olga began volunteering at the local libraries and schools through a number of non-profit and charitable organizations. She remained strong, even when many of her family and friends were weakened.
Olga has never complained, in spite of all the frustrations, as I’m sure you can imagine, that are related to her difficulties with perception and memory. She maintains an incredibly positive attitude and continues to work as a volunteer at our neighborhood elementary school. Olga inspires my children and me every day with her bright smile and positive attitude, reminding us that when the going gets tough, we need to face our deepest struggles with hard work and determination.
We feel that Alliance College Ready Academy High School #4 exemplifies such a rare but essential ethic. Please join me and embrace its new name: Dr. Olga Mohan High School.
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