COLUMBUS, Miss. – Cristina Babic didn’t know if her daughter was going to survive.

 Born prematurely at 25 weeks, Ava Grace Babic’s first home in October 2017 was the North Mississippi Medical Center. A team of doctors and at least 20 nurses cared for Ava Grace in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and did everything possible to help her feel more comfortable.

Through it all, Babic wondered how she could help. After spending nine years in medical school and receiving her general practitioner’s license in her home country of Moldova, Babic knew she was going to have to wait and hope for the best for her daughter. While she did that, Babic watched. After attending classes at the Mississippi University for Women in the morning, Babic drove to Tupelo and spent nearly every afternoon and evening with Ava Grace. What she saw in her time at the hospital led her to an epiphany.

“When I was in the NICU, I watched all of the nurses care and nurture my daughter,” Babic said. “I was like, ‘That is what I want to do.’ They built relationships with me. They knew everything about me. They knew the days I had tests. They were praying for that. They knew the days my husband could call.”

Eighteen months later, Ava Grace is healthy and doing great. Babic can sit back and relax as she recounts everything she has been through in the past year and a half. She also can smile because in two months she will complete The W’s Associate of Science in Nursing Program and she already has an inside track on a job in the area. Babic looks back to the time she spent watching the nurses care for her daughter as the turning point in a journey that has had plenty of twists.

“They took care of my daughter and took care of my emotional needs,” Babic said. “They took care of all that. I knew then – that’s it – That’s what I want to do.”

Medical background

Don’t try to tell Babic she “wasted” nine years becoming a doctor.

The 32-year-old doesn’t want to hear it. Instead, the native of Moldova, a landlocked country bordered on the west by Romania and Ukraine on the north, east and south in Eastern Europe, prefers to highlight how the time she spent in medical school showed her how to get to know patients and to provide holistic care.

“I did not waste nine years. They’re here (pointing to the side of her head),” Babic said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all of this without the knowledge I had from medical school. I have learned something from those nine years. I didn’t lose them. They taught me discipline. They taught me to do the things you don’t want to do. They taught me perseverance. They taught me dedication.

“Medical school is hard. You’re talking about nursing school being hard? Yes. You go to medical school, there were days I would cry. It was blood and sweat to go through those nine years. They taught me life lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. They helped me be the person I am now. I never saw it as a waste of time.”

Despite having nine years of medical training, Babic still faced numerous ups and downs as she contemplated her career path. She said she knew the doctor’s license from Moldova wouldn’t translate to the United States. Her husband, Momcilo, who is a police officer in Starkville, encouraged her to prepare for her boards and to go to The W and get a nursing degree as her plan B. She said in a week’s time in the summer of 2017 she found out she had been accepted into the nursing program at The W, her husband, who is a member of the National Guard, was getting deployed to Syria and she was pregnant. On top of all of that news, the Babics had just purchased a home in Starkville.

“I was very disturbed internally,” Babic said. “Half of me was grieving the loss of my license and the loss of my degree and nine years while half of me was like, ‘This is America. This is the land of opportunities. You can start from the beginning and you can do something else.’”

“I was leading a double life,” Babic said. “I was still grieving the process. The more I was going to school and the more I knew people and I went to different hospitals and clinics, the more I realized (being a doctor) wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“I was just falling in love with nursing. I realized from going to school how much more the nurse does here and that nursing here is a profession.”

The right path

Babic said she took a couple of tests on the way to becoming a doctor in the United States, but she decided to put that work “on the shelf” after Ava Grace was born Oct. 14, 2017. At that point, Babic said she had to make a decision. Babic said faculty members at The W were sure she was taking off, but she said she returned in a week following the emergency surgery. She said it was hard physically and emotionally, but she praised the faculty members in the ADN program for their encouragement.

“They were very supportive and very, very, very helpful,” Babic said. “I knew if I was to go to them and say I can’t do it they would work with me and let me come back. They were very good to me.

“Pretty much all of the kids in my class and the staff they became the community that helped me.”

Dr. Brandy Larmon, program chair and associate professor of The W’s ASN program, said Babic is “great” with patients and has a “heart” for nursing and shows compassion in everything she does.

“She really used her experience to better understand the patient perspective, and she offers a level of trust that patients find so precious in their time of need,” Larmon said. “Her and her classmates really grew together when she experienced the birth of her daughter. Classmates offered help such as cleaning, helping with notes or other class activities and emotional support during her time with her daughter. Because of this, I think her relationship with her classmates grew and over time she grew as a mentor for them as well.  She is encouraging. She has the determination and drive to be successful, and we are proud she will be a graduate of our ASN program!”

That personal touch is what Babic hopes she brings to her new career. She said she has learned a lot about the nursing profession and has discovered there are plenty of possibilities for advancement. She also said she isn’t closing the door about becoming a doctor in the United States, either.

Babic said that after acknowledging what she went through all of the stages of grief after realizing she no longer was going to be a doctor. These days, the decision doesn’t make her angry because she said she has a sense of calm knowing she made the right choice.

“People were just looking at me like I was some kind of crazy, but I guess I just fell in love with nursing so much that it didn’t really hurt,” said Babic, who also has a 9-year-old daughter, Lera. “I wanted to have a more personal approach to my patients. Nursing here is different than in my country. The program here gave us so much knowledge. The things we learned here I didn’t even learn in med school there.

“It is just a two-year nursing program, which you would think what is it compared to nine years
of med school, but then you come to realize they know what they are doing and I can gain some knowledge on top of what I already have.”

Babic also is looking forward to the return of her husband later this month from his deployment to Syria. She believes she would have had greater emotional stability if her husband was with her, but she thanks everyone who supported her through the last two years.

In May, Babic will complete her degree and move on to a job as a nurse. She hopes that position will be in the Golden Triangle, but until then she will continue to serve as a role model for all of the students at The W. She will do it with a personal touch that gives back to her peers and her professors because developing relationships like that fulfills her.

“I feel I am at a point in my life where I is all well in my soul,” Babic said. “I feel satisfied now as a wife, as a mother, as a student, as a soon to be nurse, and I am ready for a new chapter.”

March 12, 2019
Contact: Adam Minichino
(662) 329-1976
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