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Get to Know: Salwa Mourtada Bamba

Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate takes lifelong passion of caring for others into a nursing career of determination, advocacy

minute read

Written by Matthew Hastings on February 1, 2022
What You Need To Know

A new series for the campus – Get to Know – begins this month, to give a platform to faculty, students and staff. The first in the series is Salwa Mourtada Bamba, a three-time graduate of the College of Nursing with a BSN in 2011, MS in 2020, and DNP in 2021.

In celebration of Black History Month, CU Anschutz is launching the “Get To Know” series to highlight Black excellence on campus year-round – leaders, innovators and change makers who are accomplishing the extraordinary in their fields every day. The “Get To Know” series will expand throughout the year as an inclusive platform for voices on our campus. 

This week, Salwa Mourtada Bamba, DNP, shares stories on growing up in Liberia, her journey in nursing, and the impact she hopes to make in advocating for expanded access in both nursing education and care.

Q&A Header

1. What or who inspired you to pursue a path in nursing?​

I knew I had a heart for caring for others. 

As a child, I would cry when a classmate got into trouble and was placed in “time out.” 

I would advocate for them and try to negotiate with the teacher for a lesser punishment for my friends in the third grade when they misbehaved. I also acted as a pretend nurse or doctor when my siblings scraped a knee or got a thorn stuck under their feet.

I relished the experience. I loved learning about the human body, chemistry, geology and all the sciences in elementary school. 

Then, after my country was plunged into civil war, at the age of 12 in middle school, I always hung around the relief camps set up by the UN in my neighborhood, which was in the buffer zone. 

I was asked to join a team of nurses and doctors to provide care to sick men, women and children. 

After high school in Ghana, I returned to Liberia. As I attended college, I worked for an OBGYN doctor and he taught me more about medicine and allowed me to work along with the nurses, who also taught me how to prescribe medicines for different illnesses. 

It was the best experience of my young life, and that sealed my fate as a nurse/provider. I dreamed of emigrating to the U.S. for studies and was blessed to have the opportunity to do so.

2. Why do you choose to pursue your goals at CU Anschutz?

After a short while in New York, I moved and fell in love with Colorado after I visited. 

It reminded me of home – the beautiful little houses, the neighborhoods resembled mine back home in Liberia before the war and in Ghana. 

As I attended the Community College of Aurora (CCA) to complete my prerequisites, I drove on Colfax to get to CCA and I saw the CU Anschutz campus being built –as a world-renowned research university, converted from Fitzsimons (Army Medical Center) to what it is today. 

I fell in love with it. And would tell myself that “one day, I would attend and graduate from CU.”  

And I did, three times. 

I chose to return to CU Anschutz for my master’s and doctorate because of a few professors who invested in me during my RN bachelor’s degree program. Their act of kindness pushed me to return to CU. 

I knew that the education I would receive would adequately prepare me to serve as a nurse in any scope or capacity I chose – whether as a bedside RN or as a nurse leader.  

And yes, it did. 

CU nurses in the field were always exceptional. I could attest to this in the clinical setting even prior to attending CU.

3. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is your WHY? Why do you do this work?

So many things. 

Most of all – my children, my hopes, my zeal and zest for life, for serving others, and a desire to help make the world a better place for those who will follow us.

The world needs me, and I have this unrelenting zeal to do more for others in this life before I leave. 

I have seen a lot of suffering, sorrow, death, and destruction in my life. 

But I have also seen grace, love, hope, forgiveness, passion, faithfulness. 

So, I wake up every morning feeling extremely grateful that all my four children are happy and healthy and have no ailment in the world. Grateful for a roof over our heads and so much more. 

I do this work because it is what I was born to do. 

If I did anything else, it would not be me and I would not be happy. 

I enjoy working as a nurse, having conversations with my patients. Laughing, sharing stories, listening, helping them feel and do better. 

Now as a nurse practitioner, I mostly focus on health education and helping patients take control of their own health, as shared decision-makers – to build healthier families and communities.

4. The celebration of Black History Month brings an opportunity to consider one’s impact and legacy. What kind of impact on history do you hope to make? What kind of impact are you in the process of making now?

I want my life’s work to be impactful helping those who are less fortunate than me. 

I chose to work in an underserved area, regardless of how much I make – I am fighting to foster healthcare equality and equity for marginalized populations. 

Salwa Bamba at UCHealth

I am also working to advocate for minority and under-represented students in the College of Nursing (CON) in our student organization “Future Voices.”

Future Voices has several projects to help work toward our goal of amplifying the voices of underrepresented students and students of color in the College of Nursing. 

We desire to see more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and efforts that are tangible. 

For example: recruiting more students of color and students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and representations into the college via our mentorship program, increasing the number of faculty of color/ethnic backgrounds in the college via different recruiting strategies – and being intentional in our efforts to do so in the next five years. Additionally, developing SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) and action items that we will continually work toward every year. 

We also work alongside the larger CON DEI group to ensure continued collaboration. Please check out our website on the CON’s page

Also, this year, I am launching my nonprofit “The Laila A. Mourtada Foundation,” and the IRS just approved its 501c3 designation. 

I hope to provide free education and healthcare services (a small clinic) to young women and girls in Liberia to pursue professions in healthcare. In doing so, they will be able to work and provide for their families. 

Hopefully, this idea could be born into a partnership with the local nurse training school in Liberia and the CU College of Nursing – just an idea for now. 

I have big dreams to also open one of the best women’s health hospitals in Monrovia, Liberia, with state-of-the-art facilities and 21st-century diagnostics and technology to help curb maternal and fetal death in Liberia. The mortality rate and life expectancy for expectant mothers, infants and young children in my home country is one of the worst in the world.

5. What do you do to re-charge and re-inspire yourself when you feel depleted, or when you are working through a challenging situation?

I struggled with imposter syndrome when I began working as an . 

I did not feel valued or accepted as a Black NP and I felt that I was always undermined compared to my colleagues. 

My confidence took a huge blow and I almost lost hope. 

However, my family has helped me pull through really difficult situations in my life. As has speaking to my mentors –so I always turn to them to help me talk/walk through tough times. 

I enjoy a good workout, reading motivational books, podcasts and listening to stories and strategies of triumph, meditation, hiking. I usually would write in my journal, or write a song or a poem. 

These keep me at peace and helped me change the narrative that was being crafted for me.

6. What is your favorite place in Colorado, and why?

I’ve lived in Colorado for over 20 years, but due to extenuating circumstances, I was never privileged enough to enjoy Colorado the way it should be enjoyed. 

So, I’ve only been to Garden of the Gods, Evergreen Lake, Boulder, Fort Collins and Red Rocks for hiking purposes, and my favorite was Evergreen Lake. 

I’ve visited the zoo, museum, and the aquarium and I loved the museum as well – we do not have one back home in Liberia. 

There’s more I’d love to see and do here in Colorado, like visit the Royal Gorge and the ski resorts.

7. When it comes to snacks and food indulgences…sweet or savory?

It depends on the day, or mood. I prefer savory over sweet – but occasionally indulge with frozen yogurt or some Cold Stone creamery chocolate ice cream on a tough day.