Skip to main content

More than a nurse: Who is Ebola patient Nina Pham?

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 10:11 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
  • Nina Pham graduated from Texas Christian University in 2010
  • She received her critical care certification just two months ago
  • Pham's family is known for always helping other people, a longtime friend says
  • She adores her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bentley

(CNN) -- She tackled one of the toughest jobs any nurse could take on -- treating a highly contagious Ebola patient. And somehow along the way, she contracted the deadly virus herself.

Now, Nina Pham tries to recover in the same Dallas hospital where she works.

Here's what we know about the 26-year-old Texan:

'I'm doing well'

Video shows Nina Pham in hospital room
Who is nurse Nina Pham?
Dallas nurse's friend: She's selfless

On Tuesday, Pham said she was "doing well" in a statement released by her employer, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

"I'm doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers," she said, according to the hospital. "I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world."

Pham was in good condition, said Wendell Watson, spokesman for Texas Health Resources.

She's Vietnamese-American

Pham grew up in a Vietnamese family in Fort Worth, Texas.

She didn't go far away for college, attending Texas Christian University in the same city. Pham graduated with a nursing degree in 2010.

And just two months ago, she received certification in critical care nursing, which deals specifically with life-threatening problems.

She's very religious

"She is a very devoted Catholic, and always puts the other people's interests ahead of her own," said family friend Tom Ha, who has known Pham since she was in eighth grade.

Ha taught Pham in Bible class at his church.

"She comes from a family that is (of) a very strong faith," he said. So he wasn't surprised "that she (did) more than her duty called for in order to make sure the patient had a chance to survive."

When Pham called the church to let members know she had contracted Ebola, "everybody at the church" began crying, he said.

How did she contract Ebola?

She loves her job

Ha, the family friend, said nursing isn't just a job for Pham -- it's a calling.

"I think that she takes it (as) more than a career. I think it's a vocation, because her family, from the time that we met, they always serve other people," he said.

When she was accepted into nursing school, she was really excited, a family friend told The Dallas Morning News.

"Her mom would tell her how it's really hard and a bunch of her friends quit doing it because it was so stressful," the friend told the paper. "But she was like, 'This is what I want to do.' "

What's a hospital supposed to do if an Ebola patient shows up?

She's a good teacher

Nurse's friend: Pham wore a hazmat suit
Neighbors of nurse with Ebola concerned
Ebola patient given blood from survivor

Not only is Pham skilled in proper nursing techniques, she was a scrupulous teacher, too.

Jennifer Joseph trained under Pham at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Though she now works at another hospital, she remembers the guidance she received from Pham.

"Knowing Nina, she's one of the most meticulous, thorough, effective nurses," Joseph told CNN affiliate KTVT. "She taught me infection control and hand hygiene and protocol. I learned so much of that from her."

Joseph said she also has faith that those taking care of her now will help their colleague recover.

"I have full confidence they'll be able to get her through this."

She has a sense of humor

Among the boards she set up on her Pinterest account are two filled with funny e-cards: "Laughter is the best medicine" and "Nurse things."

"I hate the questions that start with, 'So you're a nurse, let me ask you ...' " read one of the pins she posted.

She adores her dog

Many of Pham's photos on social media feature her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bentley.

After Spanish authorities euthanized an Ebola patient's dog last week, many in Dallas feared Pham's dog might face the same fate.

Can pets get or spread Ebola?

But Dallas city spokeswoman Sana Syed said Bentley is safe and being cared for in quarantine.

"That dog was very important to her," said Mayor Mike Rawlings. "We want to make sure that dog is as healthy as can be at this point and being taken care of."

Officials emailed a video of Bentley to Pham on Monday night, he said, hoping that it might boost her spirits.

Complete coverage on Ebola

CNN's Brooke Baldwin and Erin Burnett contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
The largest Ebola epidemic in history began with the simple act of caring for a child. Soon, it spread from the remote village in Guinea.
updated 9:27 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
The worst-ever outbreak of Ebola virus is stretching the medical capacities of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
updated 4:11 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Before the deaths soared into the thousands, before the outbreak triggered global fears, Ebola struck a toddler named Emile Ouamouno.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
What happens when you get Ebola? CNN's Miguel Marquez explains.
updated 3:52 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Health experts are fast-tracking tests for various vaccines, and hope to have millions of experimental doses by next year.
updated 7:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Ebola is a scary infectious disease but the first thing you should know is that it's not very contagious. Here is how it spreads.
updated 12:46 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
These questions and answers will give you the latest information on the deadly virus and what's being done to stop its spread.
updated 11:32 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Up to three Ebola-infected travelers might board an international flight each month in West Africa, according to a new study, and potentially spread the deadly virus.
updated 9:45 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
There's no cure for Ebola. So why have some patients walked away healthy while others in the West died?
updated 6:25 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
A doctor at a government-run Ebola treatment center in Monrovia is too busy to mince words.
updated 7:33 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Two children orphaned by Ebola play in the empty corner of a Liberian orphanage. Their parents died last month, and none of the extended family is willing to claim them.
updated 12:55 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Public health experts are asking whether the CDC is partly to blame for problems with Ebola in the U.S. Here are 5 things they say the CDC is getting wrong.
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The lack of solid protocol on what to do with Ebola victims' pets and what little is known about the risk has caused one dog to be euthanized and another quarantined.
updated 1:58 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Rosie Tomkins takes a look at the protective suits that are worn by some Ebola medical workers in Africa.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
What's the protocol for health care workers if they suspect a patient has the virus
updated 11:09 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
Click through our gallery as we track the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
A look at CNN's complete coverage on the Ebola crisis.