Our History

Our Historical Roots

Once upon a time, over a century ago, the American Red Cross began establishing chapters all around the United States.  This agency provided a wide range of nursing care in the home and trained other citizens to provide home care services.  In addition, the Red Cross nurses had instituted vision, hearing, and health screening in schools.

At this time, in the town of Mount Desert, lived some wise and far-sighted community members who thought of bringing a chapter of the American Red Cross and its well-trained nurses to our unique area.  And these intelligent and astute folks were finally successful in bringing a chapter of the American Red Cross to the town of Mount Desert.

In-home nursing and school health care were provided by ARC nurses and continued over the years.  Red Cross nurses also acted in accordance with midwifery and attended home births.  A former resident of Mount Desert named Connie Seavey remembered being told that a Red Cross nurse named Charlotte Nelson delivered Connie in 1923. 

Just a few years after the ARC started its Chapter in Mount Desert, the residents were grateful for having these accessible and essential services.  In 1931, funds were raised, land donated, specifications and design done, and the house at 12 Summit Road was built! 

The Red Cross was then able to provide more consistent nursing care and a “town nurse” through WWI and WWII, until in 1948, when the Red Cross changed its mission to a focus on responding to disasters, and swimming/life-saving instruction.

At this time, community members, many of them present on the Board of Directors of the local Red Cross Chapter, felt strongly about the prospect of losing their “town nurse.”  So, these prudent folks took on the challenge of creating a new organization, the “Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association;” an organization which would continue to provide the same services to the residents of the Town of Mount Desert as the Red Cross had provided.  This organization inherited its board members from the original Board members of the local chapter Red Cross Board.  The “Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association” was officially founded September 1, 1949.  The building and land were donated by the Red Cross to the “Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association”, who own it as long as the Nursing Association exists. The new Board stipulated that the MDPHNA would provide nursing care to both year-round and summer residents of the Town of Mount Desert, that it would be financially supported by donations, and that no Mount Desert resident would be denied services based on ability to pay.

For many years, the building at 12 Summit Road was known as “The Chapter House”, and the Red Cross continued to meet there monthly.  While the offices of the Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association occupied the lower level of the building, the upstairs contained living quarters which was utilized by several nurses over the years.  Most recently Karol Hagberg being the last nurse to do so.  Since that time, the upstairs had been rented to social workers, counselors, and groups of the like.

From 1949 into the 80s, the Registered Nurses of Mount Desert Public Health Nursing Association, which later evolved into the Mount Desert Nursing Association (MDNA) continued to provide home health care, school health exams, and community health programs.

In the 80s and 90s, schools began to hire their own staff nurses, who then took over educational institutional responsibilities.  In 1993, the Mount Desert Nursing Association received it’s own 501c(3) status from the federal government and revamped the mission to encompass serving more towns of Mount Desert Island.  From that point through 2022, MDNA served all of MDI and outer islands.  Starting in January 2023, MDNA will be expanding its geographic service area to include the neighboring towns of Lamoine and Trenton.  It has always been and will continue to be the focus of MDNA to provide care to patients and keep them healthy at home.   

Many of the original concepts and goals of the Mount Desert Nursing Association are still in use!

  • Donations are still the primary source of funding and financial support
  • No one is refused service based on ability to pay
  • In-home care and care management are still the focus with the goal of helping people remain in their own homes for as long as possible

75th birthday celebration coming soon: September 2024


MDNA Director Timeline

1949 Ella R. Young
1950-1965 Lucy Barker
1966-1967 Sandra Price Wallace
1968-1977 Karol Hagberg
1978-1986 Ruth Westphal
1987-1988 Wanda Fernald
1989 Margaret Beaulac
1990-2000 Betty Mitchell
2001-2008 Dianne McMullan
2009-2011 Anne Napier
2011-2015 Theo Hinckley
2015 Joyce Anderson
2017-2018 Elise O’Neil
2019—2021 Heather Lewis
2021—Present Amy McVety