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The Pungus: A Family of nurses

Edith Pungu (left) and Eomba F. Pungu (right) will earn their master’s degree in nursing from WSSU on May 19. Eomba Pungu’s daughter, Amnazo Muhirwa, is following in her mom and aunt’s footsteps.

Three women, originally from the Congo, are connected by blood and also by their desire to help people. Mother, sister and aunt are all pursuing their Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degrees at Winston-Salem State University.

It all started in 1992 when Emoba F. Pungu emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest countries in Africa.

“Life was difficult for most families in Congo. To put bread on the table for kids was very stressful for most parents,” said Pungu. “You might be surprised to hear this, there are no middle-class families, you are either very rich or very poor.”

Her sister, Edith Pungu, came to the United States and enrolled at WSSU in 1995. She and her sister earned their Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degrees in 2007.

“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse since a young age. I recall seeing nuns back home helping people and I would tell my parents, ‘When I grow up, I will be like them. I would like to work in a hospital and help the sick’,” Edith said. “I believe nursing runs in my family and truly is my passion.”

Emoba’s daughter, Amnazo Muhirwa, who came to the United States at age 8, followed in her mother and aunt’s footsteps. She earned her BSN in 2015.

Now aunt, mother and daughter are pursuing Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degrees from WSSU.

Emoba and Edith expect to graduate in spring 2017. Amnazo, expects to graduate in 2018.

Amnazo wants to take her education a step further, through the WSSU-Duke Nursing Bridge to Doctorate Program.

“As a Robert Wood Johnson scholar in the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at WSSU, I had multiple opportunities to attend programs that introduced me to the variety of career opportunities in nursing and provided me with a better understanding of the need for more doctorally-prepared nurses especially in the field of research and academia,” Amnazo said. “I plan to complete the family nurse practitioner master’s program at WSSU and progress to Duke University to obtain my Ph.D. in nursing.”

Amnazo credits her mother and aunt for influencing her decision to attend WSSU to pursue a career in nursing. “Both my mother and aunt spoke very highly of their experience. I came to choose WSSU because of their guidance and encouragement,” Amnazo said.

All three are employed at N.C. health care facilities. Emoba is a RN in a neuroscience unit at Novant Health in Charlotte. Edith is a full-time staff nurse at Carolina Medical Center in the Carolina Rehabilitation unit in Charlotte. Amnazo is in Winston-Salem at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in the Cardiothoracic Surgical Unit.

Amnazo said she knows it’s rare for three people in the same family to pursue degrees in the same profession at the same time.

“We thoroughly enjoy sharing a love for the profession. Both my mother and aunt have definitely played a key role in my decision to pursue a career in nursing. My mother is an excellent nurse and cares for everyone she comes in contact with. I can always depend on my aunt to help me in sharpening an array of skills needed to make me a better a nurse. I am grateful to be surrounded by such strong and intelligent nurses as my mother and aunt; they continue to serve as my support system as I navigate through my journey in the field of nursing.”

They all also share a desire to help the people.

“My future plan is to work as a provider in the underserved areas of North Carolina as well as to one day be able to organize healthcare clinics in my home country of Congo,” Emoba said. “Primary care and health education is the cornerstone of supporting a community. My goals are to extend myself to those communities with minimal access to healthcare.”

Edith has a personal motivation that changed her career course as a healthcare provider.

“After I lost my beloved father in 2008 due to a stroke in the Congo, I decided to join the rehabilitation nursing team because my father did not receive the quality of care needed for his recovery,” she said. “I wanted to be able to provide to other patients and their families what my father and family lacked. I would love to establish healthcare clinics alongside my sister and niece to better serve our communities.”

Edith also has the desire to share what she has learned with the next generation of nurses. “My motivation was and continues to be helping people. I love to see the expressions on patient’s faces when someone is there to listen to them, help them with their health needs and to care for them as whole.”

WSSU’s School of Health Sciences offers exceptional learning opportunities for professional and graduate education. For more information, please visit the School of Health Sciences.

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