Thrive by IU Health

November 17, 2022

From Kenya to Indiana: Nurse practitioner serves his community

From Kenya to Indiana: Nurse practitioner serves his community

By IU Health Senior Journalist TJ Banes,

He wears two bracelets on his wrist - one is the red, white, and blue colors of the American flag. The other is the red, white, and green colors of the Kenyan flag. The bracelets are hand-beaded and were made by women in Kenya.

Like the American flag, the Kenyan flag is symbolic of Sam Mwangi’s life journey - spanning two continents. He was born 60 years ago in Kenya. He moved to the United States to study nursing, earning his degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio. He began his career working in senior community care and also medical/surgery. Seven years after becoming a registered nurse, Mwangi earned his master’s degree from Boston University.

This week, IU Health joins other healthcare systems across the country celebrating the quality care provided by Nurse Practitioners. Mwangi joined IU Health in 2014 and began supporting the Virtual Care Wellness and Health Program during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

Through the Virtual Care program, qualifying individuals may receive annual health visits in their home. The program focuses on providing in-person visits that access preventative health needs, along with preventing and managing diseases.

Mwangi connects virtually with clinicians who go to patients’ homes to provide another layer of personal care. He averages between three to six patients daily from around Central Indiana.

“This is something I always dreamed about doing. When I was young I fell and a piece of metal cut my knee. I had to go to a wound care clinic for three months and I was fascinated watching the nurses dress my knee,” said Mwangi. It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he realized that dream.

“Back home, healthcare wasn’t available to all and only the cream of the crop landed in a university,” said Mwangi, who is the third of 13 children. “We came from a poor background and my mother would always tell us to dress up when we went into the city to look for a job so people wouldn’t feel sorry for us. She always said that I had a bright future and I should not let my humble beginnings deter me from realizing my dreams.”

Mwangi’s parents have both passed but he has several brothers and sisters still living in Kenya. He and his wife, Margaret, also from Kenya, married 34 years ago. They have one son, two daughters, and one grandchild.

For the past seven years, Mwangi, has honored his mother by building a clinic in Nairobi named after her, “Sarah Indiana Clinic.” He and his wife return every year to oversee the construction of the site that also includes apartments.

“Our goal is to hire a clinic officer like a nurse practitioner and provide outpatient care. The building can be self-sustaining through the apartment rental,” said Mwangi. Before his mother passed, she was able to see the building site. “I know she would be very proud,” said Mwangi. Back in Indiana, Mwangi and his wife are active with the Kenyan community and fellowship regularly with about 150 local residents. He hopes to eventually help create a community center for the group.

“I want to encourage people to work to achieve their goals. I know where I came from and I know where I am now and it’s my time to give back to my people.”