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College of Nursing 50th Anniversary

Featured Alumni

As we approach our 50th anniversary, the College of Nursing is seeking notable grads to highlight in the coming year. Nominate your classmates, your colleagues, or yourself.



Abel Saba works to boost his native Burkina Faso

Abel Saba isn’t yet 40, but his list of accomplishments is long.

Saba founded a school in his native Burkina Faso, in West Africa. He moved to the United States in 2009, working entry-level jobs so he could send home money to support the school as he learned English and attended classes for his nursing prerequisites.

He graduated with his BSN in 2015.

Now a Doctor of Nursing Practice student at WSU, he intends to return at least part-time to Burkina Faso when he graduates to open a medical clinic. Recently he traveled there with friend and fellow WSU College of Nursing alumni David Oni, who was awarded his PhD in 2019, to hold free medical clinics.

Said Saba, being able to help his native country through the knowledge and skills he’s learned at WSU “makes me feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Zach Smith

Nursing school taught him to be a leader, too

As a bedside nurse for six years, Zach Smith knew the frustration of keeping track of his ever-changing work schedule. He and his wife, a fellow graduate of the Washington State University College of Nursing, would text each other lists of their upcoming shifts.  

“It was really ineffective,” says Smith, BSN ’09.

So when a friend said he was thinking about building a free scheduling app just for nurses, Smith joined on as a founding member of NurseGrid. The company offers a free mobile app for nurses and a paid version used by nurse managers. Smith’s title is Vice President of Nursing. It’s attracted several rounds of venture capital financing.

Smith, 33, credits the WSU College of Nursing for teaching him to be a leader as well as a nurse. He also wants nursing students to know there are many opportunities available to them beyond bedside nursing. His advice: “Think about the problems that you see, then go out and build solutions.”

Mica Kondryszyn

Mercy Ships expanded Coug nurse’s skills and perspective

When the Africa Mercy sailed from the port city of Douala, Cameroon, after a 10-month stay, medical crew on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship had performed more than 2,700 surgeries and trained more than 1,400 people to provide health care. 

The faith-based nonprofit Mercy Ships relies on volunteers for nearly everything – nurses and doctors for medical and dental care, captains and deckhands, and teachers and trainers.

In Cameroon, one of those volunteers was Coug Nurse Mica Kondryszyn, who graduated from the Washington State University College of Nursing with a BSN degree in 2013.

Kondryszyn spent five months on board the Africa Mercy, working in pre- and post-surgery for patients who’d undergone a wide range of procedures. There is no charge for the care provided, a model that Mercy Ships has followed for 40 years.

Kondryszyn had worked for three years on the cardiac medical floor at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital before leaving for Cameroon, and she has returned to that job. When asked whether she’d go back to Africa, she replied that she’d like to, then added, “We need good health care here, too.”

Rachel Gunning

Rachel Gunning: WSU alum, NICU nurse, card game inventor

Rachel Gunning has been a NICU nurse in Spokane for three years. Now she’s launching a card game.

The first thing isn’t the cause of the second. It’s not like she’s disillusioned with nursing. But the card game may make her a better nurse.

Gunning, a 2014 WSU College of Nursing graduate, explained: “I love my nursing job. But you have to fill your cup on your days off so you can give the very best care possible to your patients.”

The idea for the card game arose during a family reunion, and it was so much fun that Gunning and two cousins decided to try turning the experience into a product.

A Kickstarter campaign raised $8,200, far exceeding its $5,000 goal.

When she’s not working in the NICU at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, and not working with her husband on their new house, Gunning is working on the game.

“My life revolves around nursing,” she said. But, “this is a great way for me to escape that on my days off.”