For Angel Iwuoma ’20, studying nursing is more than just an area of academic interest or path to job security. It’s a window into the souls of those she’s called to love.
“On the first day of my first clinical rotation, I was assigned a 92-year-old woman and told she was nonverbal,” she says. “I entered her room, looked her in the eyes and introduced myself. All of the sudden, she reached out her hand to touch mine. She mouthed, ‘I love you.’ That’s when I knew for certain nursing was for me.”
Iwuoma grew up in Pasadena, but her family originally comes from Imo State in Nigeria. It’s a cultural heritage that richly informs her values. Her parents taught her to pursue education, practice her Catholic faith and to serve others without distinction.
She was accepted into UC Berkeley, but Iwuoma chose to attend Mount Saint Mary’s because of its reputation for having excellent nursing and women's leadership programs.
“I came to Admitted Students Day and was still on the fence about different schools,” she says. “Once I heard about being a Leadership Scholar through Women’s Leadership, my attention was fixed on the Mount. It was something I had always been interested in.”
Though she loves her nursing major, it is her minor in leadership that has transformed her. “Being a leadership scholar has honestly helped me in every realm of my life, even nursing. Because when I go into the clinical setting some people are shy, but I take initiative. I appear more confident. It’s the foundation for everything – nursing, church, outside organizations, and my dance group. It’s taught me to be the first person to reach out, helped me build relationships and pursue excellence.”
At this year’s Scholarship Luncheon on Feb. 19, 2020, Iwuoma received the Unstoppable Scholar Award.
Iwuoma is always looking for opportunities to learn, serve, and challenge herself. In the summer of 2018, she applied to be one of six students chosen for the Mount nursing department’s Global Health Mindset Pilot in Belize. Under the direction of assistant professor Marsha Nickerson, the students conducted a mobile health feasibility analysis. Their task was to conduct interviews to assess if technology can help decrease chronic illness morbidity. Mobile health is essentially mobile and public health practice supported by a mobile device, like the use of electronic clinical diaries or talking to a physician through a phone.
“We went into the town of Placencia to interview community members and collect data,” she says. “Through our research we discovered that the people are not exactly ready yet. We are still in the process of publishing our data, which is exciting.”
It was an opportunity for Iwuoma to try global nursing, and it was an experience that has influenced her career trajectory.
“Traveling to Belize reminded me of my own country of Nigeria, and of my desire to help people around the world,” she says. “It’s experiences like these that make me realize that nursing is the greatest profession ever because I can travel the world and have a real impact on people’s health.”
Iwuoma is currently impacting the Mount community through leadership roles in several on-campus clubs including the Student Government Association, the National Society of Leadership and Success, the Volleyball Club, the Student Ambassador Program and the California Nursing Students Association. She has worked as a Mount tour guide, an orientation leader and as a health care extender for UCLA. And after all that, she still finds time to write her honors thesis.
As for her Mount education, she couldn’t have done it without the scholarship she receives from the Service Learning Endowment Fund. “The scholarship helps my family financially,” she says. “I don’t have to work as many shifts, and can spend my weekends focusing on school.”
After graduation, her immediate plan is to work as an emergency room nurse. But her bigger dream is to become a professor of community health or vulnerable populations, or go into the public policy realm.
Wherever her path leads, Iwuoma knows that she is well prepared. “The Mount teaches us to love and serve our dear neighbor,” she says. “It’s the source of the compassion I have for every patient I meet. I’m looking forward to the moment when a patient comes in fearful and doubtful, and I get to say, ‘Everything is going to be ok.’ I’ll have the joy of knowing I helped bring a patient back to a state of health.“