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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.