Mindasari Daniar ’17 grew up in Indonesia, a nation that includes hundreds of ethnic groups with diverse diets and lifestyles. The exposure to different cultures, she says, inspired her to study nutrition.
“When my family moved from one town to another, I tasted many different foods and noticed that different ethnic groups have different health problems depending on their food choices,” she says.
Her parents’ families consumed a lot of meat compared to other groups and now she sees the health effects.
“My parents’ tribe had medical conditions such as high cholesterol, while a tribe that consumed more plant-based food rarely has high cholesterol problems, but they are deficient in some nutrients,” she says.
After moving to the United States with her husband, Daniar followed her passion and enrolled in UMass Lowell’s nutritional sciences program.
In her medical nutritional therapy course, she learned about enteral feeding, which uses a tube to deliver nourishment directly into the gastrointestinal tract. The subject intrigued her. After she graduated, Massachusetts General Hospital hired her for the position of human milk specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Daniar now works on a team with nurses, doctors and dietitians, adding nutrients or supplements to pumped breast milk for premature babies who need to receive nourishment though enteral feedings due to immature bowels or difficulty with breathing.
“My classes, labs and internship at UMass Lowell taught me about enteral feeding formula calculations and human milk composition so I felt very prepared for this position,” she says.
While working, Daniar is also pursuing her Master of Public Health degree at the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. Her focus is on dietetics.
“I really love my job and am appreciative of the real-world experiences I gained at UML,” she says. “The Interprofessional Education class and other courses that required us to work in groups have really helped me in my job working on a large NICU team. I learned to respect and listen to others, delegate tasks and help other team members.”