From Alabama to Zambia, Dr. Mercy Mumba is living the dream.
As the Africa native was completing the Ph.D. in Nursing program at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2016, Dr. Suzanne Prevost, the dean of the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama, contacted her via LinkedIn.
“She said, ‘I love your profile. I love what you’re doing. I think you’d be a good fit for our college. Are you interested in coming to interview?'” Dr. Mumba said. “Then, I went there and loved what I saw. The welcome was awesome. It was everything I was looking for in a position.”
Now three years into her tenure-track assistant professor position, she couldn’t be happier with the direction her career has taken.
“I always loved teaching people and mentoring people, but I never thought academia was going to be the way I was headed; I thought I would remain in the clinical setting although I was open to possibilities,” Dr. Mumba said. “It all fell into place.”
Teaching in Tuscaloosa was a far cry from what she planned to be doing after graduating from the on-campus Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at UTA in 2010. Dr. Mumba had never even been to Alabama nor did she have any family there.
After a short stint as an undergraduate research assistant, she worked as a registered nurse at Texas Health Resources before enrolling in the Ph.D. program. She worked there for more than six years. She received medical-surgical certification in 2013.
“Being an honor student, I was required to do a thesis and conduct research before I graduated — that’s how I fell in love with research,” Dr. Mumba said. “Before that, I didn’t think it was something that I wanted to do. My mentor advised me that if I wanted a career in research, then the BSN to Ph.D. route was the natural way I should go.”
After moving to the United States from Zambia to attend college in 2006, Dr. Mumba developed an interest in nursing and graduated with an associate degree in applied arts and sciences from Tarrant County College. She then transferred to UTA on a transfer scholarship to pursue a BSN.
“I miss the patient interaction,” she said. “I don’t miss the 12-hours shifts, but I miss the patients. There’s something gratifying about being there for people when they need you the most.”
Lone Star Student
Dr. Mumba thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with the faculty during both of her stints at UTA. She became the youngest person to ever graduate from the university’s Ph.D. in Nursing program at 29 years old.
“The faculty made the classes so relatable and understandable to where it wasn’t intimidating to be in their classes,” she said. “They were always approachable. They wanted to help you succeed. I had to be willing to talk to them about the areas I wasn’t doing so well in. I learned so much.”
As an added bonus to teaching at the University of Alabama, Dr. Mumba takes an annual trip with a group of nursing students to her home country. The next one is scheduled for May 2020.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that would be a reality now, but I enjoy taking the students to Zambia and setting up medical clinics in rural areas where people don’t normally have access to care,” she said. “I feel like we’re making a difference.
“This is the third year we are doing the trip. People love it. I regularly have to send so many rejection letters to students. I can only take so many students, which breaks my heart. I wish we could take all of them. It’s a very popular program, and people want to go all the time. In the future I would like to have an exchange program for my U.S. nursing students and nursing students from Zambia. It requires funds to do that and I’m currently working on a grant to do just that.”
Dr. Mumba had already taken one medical mission trip home for Hand of Hope – Joyce Meyer Ministries before she was hired at the University of Alabama.
“When I came here, I happened to mention that to my dean. She said, ‘Wow. Would you like to take students with you? Because we have students go other places in the world, but we have never sent them to Africa,'” she said. “It was born out of a conversation. We had to do some planning, but it finally came together, and in the summer of 2018, we were able to take our first trip.”
That also means Dr. Mumba gets to visit her parents, Mercy and Ramson, who are local pastors in Zambia, each year.
“They say that God has called them to minister to Africa and that it’s their mission,” she said. “I have brothers and other family members here in the United States.
“I am the first person in my family to ever get a Ph.D., although my siblings are pretty educated – from medical doctors and certified accountants to business owners and attorneys. Everyone was excited. It was so much more meaningful because there are only four or five people graduating with their Ph.D. the semester I graduated. You are the first ones to walk on stage.”
Head of the Class
Dr. Mumba is excited to be preparing young nurses to help patients and make a difference in the world as an educator.
“At the time, it wasn’t very popular going straight from a BSN program into a Ph.D. program without any clinical expertise or experience,” she said. “I searched for about two years before I decided to go back to school. I knew that to have a career in research that I needed a Ph.D. to have that trajectory.”
Although teaching is not the path that Dr. Mumba expected to take, she can’t imagine doing anything else for the rest of her career. She hopes to eventually become dean of nursing.
“My husband, Vituli, and I got married when I was in the Ph.D. program,” she said. “I credit a lot of my successes to the fact that he is very understanding and supportive of the things that I do in my career. I know I can always lean on him in tough times and trust his advice. When he and I decided to move to sweet home Alabama, so that I could take the position at the Capstone College of Nursing, it was one of the best professional decisions for me.”
Dr. Mumba believes that both of the degree programs at UTA thoroughly prepared her to become a leader and a mentor.
“I would say to anybody considering a nursing program at UTA to be ready to work hard,” she said. “UTA just doesn’t hand out degrees; you have to work for them but you will always have all of the necessary tools you need to be successful. You will always have resources available.
“I credit UTA and its Ph.D. program for the career successes I’ve had in the last few years because they provided the right foundation for me to get into a tenure-track faculty position and not feel overwhelmed or like I was underperforming.”
Dare to dream.
Learn more about the UTA online nursing programs.