Becoming an Empty Cup:

Acceptance, Dedication, and Openness to Change

Source: Office of Global Engagement

Published on 2022-06-07

Mega Hasanul Huda began nursing studies at her parent’s urging, following in her brother’s footsteps on a career path to employment stability. But soon after graduating, Mega was confronted by a system of hospital service and administration that had room for improvement. That was ten years, four degrees, and over 7000 kilometers ago; now Mega heads research and development for the Herminia Hospital Group, where she oversees some 80 research projects at over 40 hospitals across – where she is ushering in a new era of medical research and service in Indonesia.

Ample job opportunities at home and abroad were open to Indonesian nurses, but the number of patients and challenging workload got Mega thinking of a different way to support Indonesian health care. She completed Master’s programs in nursing and hospital administration, and after a stint as a lactation consultant for a WHO sponsored breastfeeding program, began looking at PhD programs.

That’s when Mega found her future advisor, Dr. Shu-Yu Kuo, who taught at TMU’s School of Nursing. Mega applied for TMU’s English-language nursing PhD program, was accepted, and soon arrived in Taiwan.

“Taipei felt like my second home.”

Like many new arrivals, Mega had concerns about adapting and being accepted in a new culture, but her fears quickly disappeared as she found Taiwan to be both comfortable and Muslim-friendly. Taipei’s transportation a welcome change from Jakarta’s infamous traffic jams. Mosques and prayer rooms were available for her religious needs, and local friends and colleagues were understanding about dietary restrictions. Professor Kuo even scheduled meetings outside of fasting times. The openness to someone from a different culture and religion was touching. “I was surprised they tried to learn my culture, and they really wanted to know about me,” Mega said. “That’s why Taipei felt like my second home.”

Dr. Mega Hasanul Huda with her husband

“The spirit of study is very good in Taipei.”

Mega was also surprised by a bit of study-related culture shock. While students in Indonesia tend to enjoy their weekends off, the tight timeframe of a three-year PhD meant Mega was often in the library on Saturdays and Sundays, often surrounded by students diligently working away. Her classmates and lab partners created a supportive learning environment, working together on lab work and writing papers, helping out “all the way to my defense,” Mega says. Mega brought her own spirit of helpfulness to her TMU community, acting as Director of the Muslim Students’ Association, which organizes activities and discussion groups for research, academics, and social support.

Mega’s PhD goal was focused on increasing the prevalence of breastfeeding in Indonesia. In Indonesia, as in Taiwan, exclusive breastfeeding rates fall below the 50% target set by the WHO (about 38 and 17 percent, respectively). Her research consisted of five studies, ranging from a systematic review of existing interventions, translating materials to Indonesian, and developing and testing a web-based education program. Then Mega began testing her program, a six-session intervention that helps mothers – and fathers – develop positive attitudes towards breastfeeding through education and skills training, with the ultimate goal of increasing their intention to breastfeed.

Being nurse equipped her to deal with patients in hospital settings, but the training came light on statistics. Stats were the tool Mega needed to analyze the effectiveness of her intervention, and she needed to learn unfamiliar mathematical concepts and software in a short period of time. “When I came to Taiwan it was like I knew nothing,” Mega says with some self-deprecation, “but during the process my Professor taught me all about research.”

She overcame the challenge with the help of her lab-mates, though not without stress, late nights, and perhaps some tears. Professor Kuo’s support was especially important; using the Zen parable of the empty cup, Kuo pushed Mega to develop academic self-sufficiency through a calm, open, and independent mindset. To learn, one must first create space within oneself to be open to new ideas. Mega took the advice to heart, passing all courses and publishing her results. Her intervention seems to be successfully increasing breastfeeding rates as well; the program has been adopted by 12 Jakarta hospitals, and new data is expected at the end of this year.

Before graduation, Dr. Kuo presented Mega with a bamboo cup to help keep the story in mind.

“I have so many things to do”

The intervention quickly garnered attention back in Indonesia, and Mega was recruited to head the research division at Herminia Hospital Group, overseeing projects at over 40 hospitals. As a member of Indonesian’s new generation of foreign-educated medical researchers, Mega is now the one young researchers look up to. She’s is dedicated to improving education and research in Indonesia, and adapting the TMU University-Hospital affiliation model and building on her relationships with TMU. She also wants to create an Indonesia-Taiwan bridging program so that other young students can benefit from the same positive educational experience that she had. “My country needs a country like Taiwan that wants to teach. Because of the high level of knowledge in Taiwan, I promise someday I will send my students to TMU.”

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