Giving back to keep her Grandpa’s legacy alive

By Matt Eisenberg | November 8, 2023
Jen Dolan photo

Jen Dolan donated to Sharp because of the impact it had on her late grandfather, who had worked at Sharp Memorial Hospital for over 35 years.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Jen Dolan donated to a few hospital organizations to support the frontline workers.

“I have connections to all the places I’ve donated,” says Jen. “Sharp HealthCare, of course, was the most prominent and the most important.”

Jen moved from San Diego to New York, where she went to Sarah Lawrence College. She lived abroad in Italy for a little while and has lived in Texas for the past 10 years.

Still, Sharp holds a strong place in her heart thanks to her late grandfather, Joseph Patrick Dolan.

“When I think about San Diego, when I think about my grandparents, Sharp was always part of that,” Jen says.

‘Going to Work’ Days

Joseph received a purple heart from his service in World War II. As Jen recollects, he was shot and lost his lung, and was still helping take care of his fellow American troops.

“It was never a question for him that he was going to get into the medical profession in whatever capacity that was,” she says.

In 1956, Joseph started working for Sharp HealthCare, and over a 35-year career he worked his way up from X-ray technician to head of radiology. His wife was a volunteer bookkeeper for Sharp as well.

When Jen was born at Sharp Memorial Hospital in the 1970s, she received a pink tile that had her name on it and the day she was born.

She spent her childhood touring the gift shop with her brother, who was also born at Sharp, and dining at the cafeteria – “eating out,” she would call it.

Never once did she groan when she had to go to the hospital.

“It was ‘Going to Work’ Day,” she says with a smile.

Dr. Joseph Dolan

The late Dr. Joseph Dolan was an X-ray technician who became head of radiology at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Jen recollects how one Halloween, families were hesitant to take their kids trick-or-treating amid fear that people would put dangerous objects in their candy. So Joseph set up a program to allow people to make sure it was safe by putting the candy through the X-ray machine to detect for any threats.

“He always wanted kids to feel safe and enjoy the holiday,” says Jen.

Keeping the legacy alive

Joseph retired from Sharp in 1991 but tragically died from a heart attack the following year.

“Even though he didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of his labor during retirement, I don’t think he would’ve changed anything about how much time he spent working and how much time he devoted,” Jen says.

Before he passed, Joseph instilled strong senses of commitment, loyalty and selflessness into his grandchildren.

Though Jen was only a teenager when he passed, she has carried on his legacy by living out those qualities each day.

“I think if he was still here, he would still be part of Sharp,” Jen says. “He’d be showing up and volunteering. Or he would figure out how to be involved philanthropically.”

Jen has worked in interior design for over 25 years, specializing in home furnishings. Recently, she was on a video call with Bill Littlejohn, senior vice president and CEO of the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare.

Bill found an old fabric swatch and showed it to her. It was black with purple and orange swirls. “Very ‘70s,” she says.

Instantly, she placed herself eating meals in the cafeteria. To this day, she can imagine exactly how things were positioned in the gift shop.

“These are the things that bring you back,” Jen says.

Then, she remembered her grandfather, the man who logged 12-hour days inside the hospital, who helped shape her into the person she is now.

“He gave back to Sharp,” Jen says. “But Sharp gave so much to him.”

Learn more about how to support Sharp and quality health care in our community.

Sign up for our newsletter