Covenant Health forges friendship with doctor from Ukraine

September 15, 2023

'I think it was heaven-sent,' says Covenant Health retiree who helped doctor learn English

Since Nancy Mulvihill retired nearly 10 years ago as vice president of corporate communications for Covenant Health, she's co-hosted a radio show with her husband and volunteered for hospice and, most recently, as a language tutor at the Adult Learning Center in Nashua, New Hampshire.

She hoped to get paired as a tutor with someone from Ukraine "because I wondered what I could do for Ukraine, and thought maybe, and it worked out," she says. "I think it was heaven-sent. It must be."

From left, Dr. Halyna Homziak, Dr. Alison Madden and Nancy Mulvihill pose for a photo during a tour of St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, in August. Homziak is from Ukraine. Madden is vice president of medical affairs at St. Joseph. Mulvihill is a retired vice president of corporate communications for Covenant Health and is also tutoring Homziak in English.

Mulvihill was paired with Dr. Halyna Homziak, a family physician from Sambir, Ukraine, who came to the United States in May to learn more English. While staying with a Ukrainian immigrant family in nearby Hollis, New Hampshire, she met for weekly sessions with Mulvihill.

Mulvihill was thrilled to learn Homziak was a doctor and put her connections with Covenant Health to good use. She arranged for a tour in mid-August of St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua. The acute care hospital has 208 beds and numerous outpatient clinics.

Covenant Health includes 15 hospitals, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and assisted living residences in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

"My dream was to come to America to see an American hospital," says Homziak. "I had a great tour. In Ukraine, our hospital is not so big and not so nice."

In Ukraine, hospital patients stay in rooms that are more like wards with five or six beds. There are few private rooms, Homziak says, and she was amazed at how nice the private rooms are here. "Here, there are no smells in hospitals," she says.

Homziak was particularly interested in the emergency department. She had worked at a hospital ED before going into private practice.

The hospital has participated in medical and general supply drives led by Dr. Boris Bronfine, a general surgeon from Serbia whose family is originally from Ukraine. Another general surgeon, Dr. Paul Stetsyuk, was born in Ukraine. He chatted with Homziak during her tour.

Dr. Alison Madden, the hospital's vice president of medical affairs, led the tour. She says the Ukrainian connections go to show that the world is indeed small. Also, they affirmed the connection between doctors worldwide.

"I think there is a camaraderie," Madden says. "I think after the crisis that the pandemic was around the world, there's even more camaraderie."

At a picture of St. Marguerite d'Youville, Homziak, Mulvihill and Madden stopped to talk about Covenant Health's mission and commitment to help the poor and those in need. St. Marguerite was the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, or "Grey Nuns," and helped establish St. Joseph in 1910.

Homziak returns to Ukraine in October. Her husband and 17-year-old daughter have stayed behind. There has not been much destruction from the war in her town, but there has been nearby, and the family often hears warning sirens from their home.

Until Homziak returns, she and Mulvihill plan to meet weekly at a local coffee shop. Homziak's English has improved greatly since May, Mulvihill says.

Homziak says she hopes her English will help her in applying for international grants for Ukrainian hospitals. "All funding goes for the war and hospitals are having a difficult time purchasing equipment," she says.

Homziak is grateful for St. Joseph's hospitality and for Mulvihill's help. "Some angels live in the sky," says Homziak. "But she is down here."


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