Editor’s note: Behind the Mask is a series intended to offer a glimpse at area medical professionals who are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joseph Muntan is an emergency department nurse and interim stroke care coordinator at Monongahela Valley Hospital – the hospital he credits with saving his life following a battle with cancer.

In 2018, Muntan was awarded Mon Valley Hospital’s Cameos of Caring Award, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing to recognize nurses who demonstrate excellence in nursing care and embody the essence of the nursing profession.

A lifelong Monongahela resident and graduate of Ringgold High School, Muntan graduated from the Penn State University paramedic program.

He worked for Tri-Community and Rostraver/West Newton EMS where he served residents of the Mon Valley until January 2009, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent treatment and went into remission, but in December of that year, the cancer metastasized and he was diagnosed with Stage IV abdominal cancer.

After a large hospital gave him a 35% chance of surviving, Muntan went to Mon Valley Hospital for a second opinion. He underwent chemotherapy at MVH Cancer Center, and has been cancer-free since completing treatment there.

Surviving cancer inspired Muntan to embark on a mission: to become a nurse.

“But the real goal was to become an emergency department nurse at the same health system that saved my life,” he said.

Muntan also has served as a firefighter for the Monongahela Volunteer Fire Department for 26 years and has worked for nearly a decade as a part-time telecommunications officer for the Washington County 911 Center.

Q. What is your favorite breakfast?

My favorite breakfast consists of French toast, eggs and fresh fruit.

Q. Do you like roller coasters? Why or why not?

When I was young I was terrified of them. I am still not fan of them. If something could go wrong, it probably would happen when I was on it.

Q. What is the best thing going on in your life right now?

My girlfriend, Meredith Terek, and I will be graduating in one week from Grand Canyon University, having achieved our BSN degrees. Also, we have just settled into our new home in Carroll Township.

Q. What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Hog Fathers barbecue and Black Rifle Coffee.

Q. Who are your favorite musical artists or bands?

I mostly listen to modern country. Hands down, Garth Brooks is my favorite artist. Once in a while I still revert back to the ‘80s hair bands.

Q. What do you want to tell people about the COVID-19 pandemic?

First, I want people to listen to the experts and their recommendations. The pandemic hasn’t hit us as hard as other places yet. I believe the reason for this is that everyone in our communities united together as one and made the sacrifices necessary to keep COVID-19 from changing our population forever. Secondly, I don’t want anyone to feel worried about coming to the hospital in their time of need. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a person increases their chance of being exposed when seeking medical attention. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have taken extraordinary strides in ensuring everyone’s safety that comes to our facility. Please don’t wait if you feel that you have an emergency. Lastly, be that neighbor! The one who checks on their elderly neighbors. The one that reaches a helping hand out to our neighbors who have been laid off. The one that cares about the future of our communities. Be the one who can proudly say, “We are #monvalleystrong.”

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