UH Hilo alumna Mya Yee Nandar receives award for excellence as a nurse practitioner in Illinois

Mya Yee Nandar (Nursing, 2016), advocate for under­served and under­treat­ed pop­u­la­tions, is a nurse practitioner specializing in mental health care at clinic in Illinois.

By Susan Enright.

Mya Yee Nandar pictured.
Mya Yee Nandar

An nursing alumna from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is the recipient of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ 2024 State Award for Excellence in Illinois. The award is presented annually to one nurse practitioner and one related advocate from each state, district, or territory.

Since fall of last year, Mya Yee Nandar is a nurse practitioner with a specialty in mental health care at the Kenneth Young Center, a mental health clinic in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

Nandar was an international student at UH Hilo hailing from Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). She received her bachelor of science in nursing in 2016.

While at UH Hilo, she received a prestigious leadership award, ʻIke Pāpālua: To Have the Gift of Vision, an annual award of the campus’s Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Program. Nandar’s award recognized her volunteer work at Hilo Hospital and her advocacy work on campus. She also gave public presentations and wrote articles on health care advocacy for the International Student Exchange newsletter.

Group photo of award recipients in lei and holding koa bowls and certificates.
In 2016, while an undergraduate at UH Hilo, Mya Yee Nandar (at far left) received a prestigious leadership award, ʻIke Pāpālua: To Have the Gift of Vision, an annual award of the campus’s Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Program. Above, Nandar stands with other winners of various awards given out that year. (Photo: John Oshima)

After graduating from UH Hilo, Nandar continued her education and received a master of science in nursing, with honors, from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2020.

With love, kind­ness, respect, and dig­ni­ty

From her expe­ri­ence as an inter­preter and cul­tur­al tour guide in the moun­tains of Bur­ma, to her work today as a nurse prac­ti­tion­er with Kenneth Young Center’s behav­ioral health pro­grams, Nandar’s goals and career have always been about com­pas­sion­ate­ly help­ing oth­ers achieve their goals.

“[I strive] to do more, bet­ter, for human car­ing, with love, kind­ness, respect, and dig­ni­ty,” she says.

Nandar says she was inspired to get into health care while acting as a tour guide for tourists on a trek in the Himalayan Mountains. There was a sudden snowstorm, and while seeking shelter with a local family, tragedy struck with the death of the grandmother due to lack of nearby health services. Nandar says she remembers feeling powerless.

“There was nothing I could do,” she recalls.

“As you get clos­er to the peak, you see more and more health dis­par­i­ties for the impov­er­ished peo­ple liv­ing on the moun­tain­side,” says Nandar. ​“I felt so help­less. At the time, I had no med­ical train­ing, and the only health­care sup­plies we had on hand were ban­dages. It was a two-and-a-half-day trek to the near­est health­care facil­i­ty,” a race against time that the fam­i­ly had­n’t been able to beat.

“It was then that I decid­ed to trans­form my life to do more human car­ing,” says Nandar. ​“I real­ized that many peo­ple had very lit­tle edu­ca­tion on pre­ven­tion [of health­care issues], so I decid­ed to become a reg­is­tered nurse then nurse prac­ti­tion­er, a career that focus­es on pre­ven­tion and cre­at­ing bet­ter out­comes.”

A career of caring for under­served and under­treat­ed pop­u­la­tions

Nandar’s career has includ­ed over­see­ing geri­atric psy­chi­a­try in nurs­ing homes and serv­ing in a COVID-ded­i­cat­ed crit­i­cal care unit in Chica­go. She has also served the large Burmese refugee com­mu­ni­ty in Indi­ana. Each envi­ron­ment has taught her more about how dif­fi­cult and frus­trat­ing it is to nav­i­gate health­care for under­served and under­treat­ed pop­u­la­tions.

​“I have learned so much from my patients through­out my career,” says Nandar. ​“I’ve worked with patients who have gone through so much: inequal­i­ty, cul­tur­al incon­gru­ent cares, racism, sex­ism, and mul­ti­ple trau­mas. Peo­ple who have gone through so much in their life and deserve to be treat­ed bet­ter, which has dri­ven me to become more equipped and edu­cat­ed to be able to best serve my patients and their under­served com­mu­ni­ties.”

Kenneth Young Center logo with green silhouette of two people.Her work at Kenneth Young Center is no exception.

“It can be hard for health­care providers to have the time to tru­ly explain med­ical issues and med­ica­tions to peo­ple, so I make a point to sit down and talk about these details with my patients always,” she says.

​“I pri­mar­i­ly work with clients who are tak­ing med­ica­tions and may need to be seen as a first time or for a refill, or they may have a hard time get­ting to see their pri­ma­ry care provider,” Nandar explains. “I check in with them to see if we need to make any changes to their treat­ment, to see if they feel it’s effec­tive, cul­tur­al­ly con­gru­ent care, and what’s going on in their lives.”

“A meet­ing with me is quite relaxed,” she adds. “I want to get to know clients on a per­son­al lev­el, as there’s a lot more beyond symp­toms. I like to ask, ​ʻhow may I assist you today,’ and we can work towards the clien­t’s goal together.”

Read full story from the Kenneth Young Center’s website.

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Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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