A Teacher and Leader, Trained in Taiwan
Lecturer and Dean of Indonesia’s Alma Ata University’s Faculty of Health Sciences Dr. Esti Nurwanti was always interested in studying nutrition. When she heard the positive experiences of classmates who had studied in Taiwan, she decided to experience for herself the Taiwan education advantages and enrolled in Taipei Medical University’s (TMU) international PhD program in medicine.
Coming to TMU was made easier with a relative similarity in curriculum and culture between Indonesia and Taiwan. With help and advice from her Indonesian friends and classmates, it didn’t take long to discover the added benefits of immersion in Taiwan’s supportive, internationalized, and English-speaking learning environment. At TMU she met students from around the world and through research and extracurricular activities learned about their own countries and points of view.
Following her supervisor’s advice to complete studies within three years, spending long days and late nights in the library was a given. But the demanding time frame was made easier with her supervisor’s constant support as well as help and advice from professors across TMU departments and disciplines. Dr. Nurwanti grew especially fond of the collegial and relaxed atmosphere of TMU’s iCollege (College of Interdisciplinary Studies), a sentiment shared by her young daughter. Convenient transportation by MRT (Metro Taipei) and rental bike (YouBike) and facilities for children also helped make their time in Taiwan pleasant.
Although language wasn’t an issue on campus, being in a Chinese-speaking city did present certain challenges. Finding halal foods in the supermarket wasn’t usually an issue, but trying to figure out the pork content of a dish in Taiwan’s bustling local restaurants and markets could be tough. And while Taiwan’s convenience stores are ubiquitous, for pre-packaged Halal dishes, not so much. But the international students bonded over home cooked meals, and did find Halal and vegetarian options near campus and at the University hospital. Besides, not all taxi drivers were fluent in English, but local students were always keen to help – if one was around, that is. One time, Dr. Nurwanti almost missed a flight to attend a seminar in the UK when the driver couldn’t quite catch the meaning of “airport”. She ended up just making the flight, but the protip is to leave early and have your destination written in Chinese!
The Multi-disciplinary Training Provided by Taipei Medical University was a Big Help
Back in Indonesia Dr. Nurwanti was hired as Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Alma Ata University where she began overseeing five different medical programs: Nursing, Nutrition, Hospital Administration, Midwifery, and Pharmacy. Now responsible for improving both the institution’s and students’ academic performance across a broad range of healthcare topics, Dr. Nurwanti says the multi-disciplinary training provided by TMU was a big help in preparing her for the stresses of quickly integrating diverse fields of knowledge. And in only a short time her program implementations have met with success; a year after coming onboard, Alma Ata’s nutrition program has jumped to national accreditation ranking named “LAM PT Kes” with grade A, i.e. excellent.
Creating a World-Class Education and Research Environment in Indonesia
Building Alma Ata’s reputation through quality research and education is important to Dr. Nurwanti, as she works to encourage local lecturers to raise their qualifications through furthering studies, publishing research, and participating in international collaborations. As part of this strategy, she is strengthening connections established in Taiwan to forge partnerships with Universities from Asia, Africa, America, Europe, and the UK to provide students in Indonesia an education and growth experience similar to what she experienced in Taiwan. To this end, she’s made trips over the past year and a half to Leeds, New York, and Arizona to create opportunities for international student exchange and research collaboration. But it’s not just about connecting to big names, it’s about creating a world-class education and research environment in Indonesia.
Dr. Nurwanti’s leadership responsibilities also include meeting with government policy-makers to inspire institutional development through international connections like those she continues to build in Taiwan. Indeed, contact with Taiwan’s healthcare system was an experience that has had a lasting influence on Dr. Nurwanti, something she says is especially relevant in the post COVID-19. Taiwan’s successes with national health insurance, health care infrastructure, and pandemic control regulations have made a strong positive impression, and she believes these health innovations developed in Taiwan can be used as a guide for health care development in Indonesia and many other countries.