Burmese nurse welcomes immigrants to south-side physicians’ office

Olivia Munday is proud of her Burmese roots and works to make others feel comfortable seeking medical care.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Olivia Munday has come a long way since arriving in the United States as a refugee from Burma in 2008.

The IU Health nurse works in the Epler Parke primary care office on the south side of Indianapolis, where, as a Burmese immigrant, she is a welcome presence for the growing number of people who have come to this country, many fleeing ethnic and religious persecution in their homeland.

Munday worked hard to get her nursing degree while living in Pennsylvania, then moved to Battle Creek, Mich., for a job, before coming to Indianapolis. Today (Jan. 7) marks her one-year anniversary as a nurse in the IU Health/Riley physicians’ office.

It’s a role – and a place – that suits her, she said.

Currently, an estimated 14,000 Burmese people live in Indianapolis, primarily in Perry Township and Southport on the city’s south side. Munday lives in the area as well, with her husband, Scott, and their two dogs and attends Burmese Baptist Church.

Because of its location, the Epler Parke office attracts a growing number of Burmese patients, both adult and pediatric. Munday understands the challenges they face.

“I kind of know what they went through and how the medical system works over there,” she said.

For one, there was no appointment system as is common in the U.S. People would walk into clinics and just wait for as long as they had to before someone would see them. Also, language is obviously a hurdle for many.

In Burma, also known as Myanmar, Burmese is the official language, but not everyone speaks it. There are eight dialects for eight states in the region, Munday said. She speaks Burmese and Falam, a Chin dialect, and does her best to welcome all who visit the office.

“I can help some of the people and understand the challenges of others,” she said.

Munday, who grew up caring for her mother in Burma, is a natural caregiver.

“I love helping people,” she said. “I like to explain things and share knowledge. And I want to be in a position where I can help people coming into this country.”

And if being a nurse is not enough, Munday is enrolled in a nurse practitioner program and expects to graduate in 2022 and work in family practice.

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org