A Conversation with Phil Mangahas
As part of the AANA’s year-long Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion campaign, I Am Me, and in observance of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the AANA had this conversation with Phil B. Mangahas, DNP, MS, CRNA, to discuss his journey to become a CRNA, his life’s philosophies, and other things he has learned along the way.
What would you describe as your first leaning towards science, healthcare, nursing, and nurse anesthesia?
I kind of started out on this path early in my life. I was born in the Philippines and I am one of 12 siblings. College was never emphasized or talked about because my parents did not have the means to help us with our education.
What inspired you?
I realized I did not want to live the life of a poor man, so I worked hard on my education and realized fairly early on that this was going to change my life. During high school, the field of nursing was opening up. You were seeing more men enter the field. Maria “Sallie” Poepsel, PhD, MSN, CRNA, APRN, and I attended the same nursing school in the Philippines. Our alma mater is the University of Santo Tomas (UST), which is the oldest existing university in Asia. UST was established in 1611 through the initiative of Miguel de Benavides, the third Archbishop of Manila, and is also older than Harvard University.
When did you come to the United States?
There was an increasing need for more nurses in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, and I was open to the idea of moving to the United States. When the opportunity arose through a healthcare recruiter, I headed to the smoky mountains of Tennessee. My first job in the states was at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital in Morristown, Tennessee.
How did you discover nurse anesthesia?
It was during the early years of the Vietnam War (1955-1975) that I became aware CRNAs were serving in the military and able to render care that alleviated the pain of soldiers in need of medical treatment and other life-saving procedures. I knew then that if I finished nursing school and made it to the United States, nurse anesthesia was the career path I would ultimately pursue.
In 1976, I was accepted into the Wayne State University Nurse Anesthesia program in Detroit, Michigan. John F. Garde, CRNA, MS, FAAN, was my program director. John had an uncanny ability to identify characteristics in people and steer them towards what they would excel at. John Garde used this uncanny ability throughout his various leadership positions within the AANA and ultimately as executive director to put the right people in the right positions, which ultimately benefited the nurse anesthesia profession as a whole.
John helped keep my focus on my educational pursuits in nurse anesthesia, set expectations, and was tough but caring. He inspired me to give back to the profession of nurse anesthesia and taught us as students the importance of being very involved in the AANA. Attending state association meetings was not optional. As soon as I graduated, I became involved with the Michigan state association and have also volunteered on the AANA Nominating Committee.
What are the gifts of nurse anesthesia and what are you proud of?
There have been so many opportunities I would not have had if it had not been for nurse anesthesia. I have been able to mentor many students and CRNAs over the years, which I feel is very important.
I also give back to local and international communities. CRNAs are very generous when it comes to giving, and that is a trait that I think it a common thread within the nurse anesthesia community. I am always impressed with the number of our colleagues who volunteer for medical missions. In my case, being a part of surgeries that help children with cleft palates who have lived with certain stigmas and health issues their entire lives is an incredible feeling. We are blessed to live in America.
I was the first in my family to come to America and it changed the lives of my entire family. I brought my parents over here and some of my siblings as well and changed their perspective on life from the one in which they have always known. In addition, I have been able to help some of my nieces and nephews attend college.
I am really proud of what I have accomplished and because I was pretty determined to change my life. I’m never afraid to approach anyone, although I might have a little accent or come from a different culture. I introduce myself to the patient and let them know what is going to happen and then we proceed from there.
Advice to students or young CRNAs
Think outside the box and look at the deeper meaning of life. Anesthesia will give you the financial stability in life but will also allow you to accomplish even greater pursuits. Look at your community, give a part of yourself outside of anesthesia but always give back to your profession and professional association because you have gained much from both.
A CRNA for more than 40 years, Phil graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, and from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan with Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees in Nurse Anesthesia. In addition, he earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.