From Sierra Leone to Washington, D.C., standout IAC RN Marian Toronka serves with excellence
For International Women’s Day, US Acute Care Solutions is thrilled to honor RN Acute Care Service Coordinator Marian Toronka, MBA, MHA, BSN, RN.
Though Toronka has only been with USACS (Fort Washington Medical Center, Maryland) since November 2020, she already has made such a wonderful impression and impact on her colleagues and patients alike.
“The first time I met Marian it was immediately obvious that she was an exceptional person,” said Chief of Integrated Acute Care Michael Cetta, MD, FACEP. “Not only does she have command of the IAC logistics but she also enters the room with confidence, cheer and energy. We are very fortunate to have Marian on the IAC team.”
Toronka said she strives to always be her best.
“For me, putting a smile on someone’s face, whether that is a nurse, doctor, or patient, even when it’s just doing my job, making people happy makes me happy.”
She came to USACS at the persuasion of a good friend and former colleague who also works at Fort Washington Medical Center. She said she’s been extremely happy with this career move and greatly enjoys the work, her colleagues, and her patients.
Toronka overcame unbelievable odds to achieve her dreams of career and family. When she was just nine years old, her family joined her father in Maryland via a visa lottery after fleeing war-torn Sierra Leone in 1996. In the West African country, there had been a violent transition of power in which civilians were subject to horrific acts of mutilation, including having their limbs, ears, and lips cut off. Her father, Baba Toronka, worked for a year in the U.S. and then was able to afford to bring the rest of the family – Marian, Marian’s mother, Sarah Toronka, an older brother, Alfred Toronka, and a younger sister, Beatrice Toronka, to join him. Upon arrival, they spent months living with family as her parents earned enough money for their own place. A brother, Michael Toronka, was born to the family in the U.S. in 2000.
“Coming to the U.S. was a huge cultural shock,” Toronka recalled. “We arrived during a winter storm, but we had never heard of snow before. We were all confused about what that white stuff on the ground was – my mom wondered if it was salt!”
A year after their arrival, Marian’s father sat the children down and told them that they were now living in the land of opportunity, the United States of America. “‘It’s all on you, do whatever you choose to do,’ he told us, ‘but I’m not paying for college, so if you’re going to go, you need to work hard now and figure out how to pay for it.’”
Gates Millennium Scholarship paves the way for college education
Toronka accomplished this dream – she finished at the very top of her high school class and earned a full ride to Baltimore’s Towson University as a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar. In the meantime, she had applied for – and received – numerous other scholarships. So many other scholarships, in fact, that the college needed to cut some of them off.
Determined to be a nurse in one of the most competitive undergrad programs in the country, Toronka applied to be admitted into the nursing program at the end of her freshman year to reserve her space. And she earned it, one of only 75 spots.
Fulfilling her dreams
After completing her undergraduate degree, Toronka went directly to work as a cardiac nurse. She was getting ready to transfer to the ICU unit, but her supervisor encouraged her to instead pursue nursing leadership. Reluctantly, she did. But eventually? She loved it.
In the meantime, she began to date her older brother’s friend, Sulaiman, who had left Sierra Leone just a few months after her family did. Even though he took her to Home Depot on their first date, the couple married in a traditional West African ceremony in 2011 and are raising their three children, Aaliyah, Makayla, and Jahdari. Sulaiman’s father, Sajor Bah, has lived with the family since 2013.
A week after their youngest, Jahdari, started kindergarten, Toronka began attending classes for her dual master’s degree through the University of Phoenix. The first in her family to complete a bachelor’s degree, Toronka also completed both her MBA and MHA just last week, and started her own home health business in 2018.
She finished her undergrad at the top of her graduating class, and was determined to complete her master’s with a 4.0, in spite of raising – and now virtually schooling – three children, caring for her father-in-law, and working full-time as a nurse through a global pandemic, as well as maintaining a vibrant marriage. And – leaving a job she’d been at since college graduation to take on a new role with USACS. One group project left her just five points away from achieving that dream, completing both masters with a 3.96 GPA.
An even brighter future
2020 was a year of growth in nearly every way.
“I’ve been a person of faith my entire life, but it’s only gotten stronger this year. Praying is the first and last thing I do each day – praying for my family, friends, patients, and coworkers. So many have endured so much,” Toronka said. “2020 ended up being one of the best years for our family because we realized how blessed and fortunate we are. All of us have remained healthy, and that alone has been more than enough.”