The amazing stories of Africans living in the United States are rarely told in the United States where most people in the news are often white. Kids who grow up watching television or browsing news sites often end up believing the world ends in California and starts in New York. They may also end up believing that success, peace, care, love and intelligence are all white while failure, chaos, terror, ignorance, anger and violence are all black. TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA knows that’s false. Our popular segment “My American Story” highlights the perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, sophistication, struggles and successes of Africans in the United States and Canada – Simon Ateba, editor-in-chief of TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, Washington D.C., August 18, 2018.
Nonye Aghanya was born in the southeastern Nigerian state of Enugu and moved to Brooklyn in New York City in 1992 after she graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, at the age of 19.
There, in the city that never sleeps, she obtained a Master of Science degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner from Pace University, New York, as well as several other certificates and qualifications in the healthcare sector.
“Due to my innate love of helping others, I abandoned a pursuit in the profession of Computer Science and Information Technology, and obtained a certificate as a nurse’s assistant over 27 years ago,” she told TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA in an interview in early August.
She is the author of two books: “Simple Tips to Developing A Productive Clinician-
Patient Relationship” and “Principles For Overcoming Communication Anxiety and Improving Trust”.
In May 2019, she published an online school Communication Academy and courses in her school have received accreditation for granting Continuing education units to Physicians and Nurses.
Her contents are based on research study results and her numerous interactions with
diverse groups of individuals in the healthcare settings for close to 30 years.
A Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Trustees, she is married and has four daughters.
“I continued to study and advance in my career with the intention to utilize the soft skills of communication to breakdown perceived and real barriers, lower anxiety, create tranquility and ultimately help to improve the chances of establishing better and more trusting relationships between healthcare providers and patients in various healthcare settings across the United States and globally.
“I have worked in various healthcare settings in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. I currently work as a Family Nurse Practitioner in the retail clinic setting,” she said.
Her most memorable moment in the United states was when she held her first published book in her hands, and “danced for joy!” she said.
What she misses the most about living in Africa: “I love African foods and clothing and can readily obtain those in African markets here in the US. So, I can’t truthfully say I miss those the most”.
“Rather, what I miss is the sense of true solidarity, unity, endearment, and contentment often exuded in African culture despite economic and political mishaps that have plagued us for many years. This, I truly believe is due to the sense of being grounded in God’s promises to care for all who put their trust in Him despite life’s uncertainties”.
Mrs. Aghanya granted an interview to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, and gave us a peep into her extraordinary life in the United States.
What’s your name now? What was your name before? What do people call you and what do you prefer to be called.
My name is Nonye Aghanya, but close friends and family call me Nonye
What African country do you identify with and what part of that country do you associate with? What state do you live in the United States and what is your citizenship?
Married to a wonderful gentleman from the Ivory Coast for 20 years, I guess it’s safe to say that according to our African tradition, I identify with Ivory Coast but I also readily associate with Nigeria and definitely love the similarly rich traditions of both countries ( food, pleasantry greetings, clothing etc). I currently live in Virginia and I’m a Nigerian and a United States citizen as well.
Where and what did you study?
I studied computer Science at the University of Nigeria and many years later obtained a master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner program from Pace University, New York.
Where do you work and what type of job do you do?
I have worked in various healthcare settings, initially as a Registered nurse and now as a Family Nurse Practitioner. I co-owned a private medical clinic in New Jersey for 7 years and currently work in the retail clinic setting for the past 12 years where I’m responsible for the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients with various acute and chronic ailments.
How long have you been in the United States?
I have lived in the United States for over 27 years (Since January of 1992)
What has been your most memorable moment in the United States?
There are certainly a few but my most memorable moment was the publishing of first book, Simple Tips To Developing a Productive Clinician-Patient Relationship.
What has surprised you the most in the United States?
What has surprised me the most is that Americans have similar concerns and fears that we also experience in Africa. All countries have their strengths and shortcomings and the stability of a country is anchored in its ability to remain steadfast in its strength and continually work on improving its shortcomings.
What do you like the most about living in the United States?
I like the vast opportunities accessible to all to improve their quality of life through dedication and hard work irrespective of social status and class.
What do you miss the most about not living in Africa?
I miss the ease of human transparency and vulnerabilities that Africans tend to exhibit which contribute to the formation of more genuine relationships.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about being in the United States?
Being in the USA, the greatest value I’ve learned is that staying true to one’s core belief that every life is valuable and the belief of attributing life and worth to another’s existence will ultimately help to erase cultural disparities, misinformation, and prejudice.
What’s your biggest challenge in the United States?
Sharing tips to help improve communication so that people can interact with one another as their “true-selves”, first in healthcare and then in the general population.
What’s the biggest misconception about life in the United states that people in Africa have?
That healthcare is free for all in the USA
They say that everyone has a book in them. What would your book be about?
My book will be about a young Nigerian girl who experienced her first brush with prejudicial belief as a nurse’s assistant while wholeheartedly trying to care for a patient. And how this experienced instigated her to help improve communication/trust development in America and beyond.
What do you spend the most time thinking about?
How to share information on ways we can exude warmth and build trust with others through the effective use of soft skills of communication despite diverse beliefs, ideologies, attitudes.
What is something you will NEVER do again?
I can’t think of anything that I will NEVER do again. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m a risk taker…😊
What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
Getting married early in life at age 19 years, coming to America and going through and overcoming marital difficulties to remarry 8 years later to my current husband has been a blessing in disguise. Through my 2 marriages, I have 4 beautiful daughters (ages 28, 18, 13 and 8 years) and from each daughter, I have learned the life skills for daily living (defiance, strength, compassion, and persistence)
What is the strangest thing you have come across?
As humans, no one is perfect, and we are inherently plagued by human inadequacies. However, I find it strange that trying to point out some of the faults that exist in the USA (especially as a human of African descent), could get one to be easily labelled as racist rather than a realist.
What are you addicted to?
I am addicted to singing praises to the Lord and praying.
As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
I’m becoming more afraid that technological advancements in communication will gradually erode the human qualities (vulnerabilities & transparencies) that enable us to form more genuine connections with heart to heart honest interactions.
What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
I like Frank Edwards music. Recently, I am beginning to like Afro beats songs from many Nigerian artists as Flavor, PSquared, Davido (I think that’s his name?? 😊)
If life is a game as some people say, what are some of the rules?
In the game of life, always bring your “A” game but know that it may sometimes not be good enough to secure a win, but never give up….keep trying.
What’s the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?
That I’m able to gain people’s attention and trust by helping to create a tranquil environment through modes of engagement by utilizing various effective communication styles.
What do you regret not doing?
I don’t really have any regrets yet about not doing something….and hopefully it stays that way.
What gives your life meaning?
Being able to have a patient who was initially reluctant to engage with me, display diminished anxiety while becoming comfortable during his/her clinical consultation with me and at the end, say “Thank you” with a warm smile/hand shake and truly mean it.
What are you most insecure about?
My biggest fear is to age without grace, especially with the new grey hairs I’m suddenly getting each month 😊!
How do you get in the way of your own success?
By sometimes being an overachiever, I get in the way of my success. I must remind myself to stop and smell the roses occasionally.
What are you afraid people see when they look at you?
I’m afraid that many may not take my message seriously because of its very simple and yet easily applicable format.
What’s one thing you did you really wish you could go back and undo?
I once blurted out in an interview that I am very friendly and easy to talk to and following that appearance, received many marriage proposals! It was a teachable moment as I now tread lightly to maintain that fine line between being approachable and yet being happily married.
When do you feel truly alive?
When I am worshipping with my whole being.
What do you like most about your family?
My family’s ever intriguing story reflects who I am and my purpose on earth.