Alumni Linkage - Profile

Alumni Communication & Support Alumni Linkage Past Issues September 2023 Issue Alumni Linkage - Profile

‘I was dreaming to combine my expertise in sports and music, and to figure out a way to help those in need,' said Mandy Kan, the 2018 graduate of the Bachelor of Nursing Programme. She was recalling the memory before she graduated from her bachelor’s degree and shared the reason that brought her to the academic research field. Mandy has always been a sports and music lover, and she strives to balance her development in sports, arts and studies. While she was taking the nursing programme in HKMU, the course Nursing Research particularly aroused her interest, and this triggered her to consider devoting herself to this field instead of working frontline as a nurse. Mandy thought the best way to explore oneself is to experience, so she started working as a part-time research assistant. Turned out she was right about herself and had more assurance that she is passionate in doing research. Mandy is now working at a university, investigating how the pipe organ can be used as a tool for rehabilitation, integrating her knowledge in sports, music and healthcare.

Pipe organ and sports go hand in hand to scale greater heights

Mandy's musical journey began when she was still a kid. She first started with the violin and the piano, then got her first exposure to the pipe organ when she was at the age of 17. She was fascinated by the beauty of its timbre, the wide range of sound effects and remarkable musical experience as an orchestra. Mandy was eager to master it and now the pipe organ becomes a significant part of her life. ‘Playing the organ is similar to playing the piano, but there are additional elements, like it has complex musical notes and pedalboard. It is operated by both hands and feet, sometimes the upper and lower parts of your body are playing on different sides of the keyboard, and you really need good body balance and coordination,’ she said. While spending time on music, she also thrives in sports.

Mandy was one of the prize winners of University's 'The Best Athlete of the Year Sports Scholarship Scheme'. She shared the key to her success is to develop multiple interests. She not only engaged herself in plenty types of sports, like cross-country running, orienteering, taekwondo and so on, but also put efforts to encourage her fellows to join. An interesting fact about Mandy is that she never finds the repetitive and time-consuming musical instrument practices difficult or boring. Her tactic is to imagine herself as a game player, and every note she hits she gains a point. She always sings along the music, thinking of herself getting over a stage and another. Like many of you might have thought of, Mandy agrees sports and music complement one another. One of the similarities between them is having good skills is essential to the performance.  'Music helps me to stay focused while exercising, and exercising improves the coordination of my body so I can perform better in music.' She added that exercise could enhance her endurance for playing musical instruments. You could get very tired playing the pipe organ because it is operated by hands and feet at the same time.' The dynamic characteristics of the pipe organ inspired her in determining the direction of her research project.

Embarking on the journey to research

Mandy is dedicated to serve the community. She started scouting since young so it is not surprising that she chose to study a nursing degree. Taking the course, Nursing Research, in Year 3 led her to a new world. She got the opportunity to learn all the theories and rationales for research, including the way to set hypotheses, evidence-based practices and critical thinking. This experience planted the idea of pursuing a career in academic research in her mind. Mandy did not wait until she graduated, instead she worked part-time as a student research assistant and gained relevant experience. During the time, she got the chance to participate in data collection and observe how the professors work. Those were valuable experiences that made her able to visualise her future.

Mandy remembers the days when she was studying in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. She is genuinely thankful to our staff for the support and guidance, especially Prof. Mimi Tiu formerly with the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Ms Crystal Lui who worked at the Student Affairs Office. They helped Mandy to understand her own personal strengths and weaknesses to see whether research work is suitable for her. They also advised Mandy to accumulate clinical experience. Following the mentors' advice, Mandy chose to gain frontline experience by working in a public hospital after graduation. 'My personal thought was the number of patients I can help in a ward is limited. But if I devote myself to researching, the findings could bring further and broader impacts and help more patients,' she recalled. To achieve her goal, she went to the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in music psychology. Her research focus was music's impacts on health. Leaving the frontline does not mean abandoning the knowledge she learnt, Mandy's qualifications in nursing allowed her to build trust with interviewees when she collected research data. Courses in nursing psychology, public health, health psychology and other areas within the undergraduate programme have also laid the foundation for her master’s degree.

Potential of pipe organ for rehabilitation

Adhere to what she knows the best, Mandy chose to include the analysis of playing the pipe organ in her master's thesis. She studied the comparison of the differences in manipulation of limb muscles between playing the piano and the pipe organ. The steps of research process include data collection and analysis, writing manuscripts, attending conferences and publishing in academic journals. These gave Mandy the sense of achievement and she felt like she is approaching her goal. Mandy returned to Hong Kong after completing her master’s degree. She is now working as a research associate at a university, looking into the effectiveness of exercising with the pipe organ's pedalboard on lower limb rehabilitation. Mandy believes playing pipe organ has positive impacts on health, and this is why she always conducts research on it. She pointed out playing pipe organ is a low-intensity exercise which required the operation by both hands and feet while seated. People who cannot stand are also capable of playing it. And when you are playing it, it helps coordinate the left and right brains, and can be used for cognitive training. Looking into the future, Mandy aims to promote the benefits of the pipe organ for rehabilitation, and plans to pursue a doctoral degree to continue her research in music and health.

Mandy was once standing at the crossroads of life, and there is no shortcut to the 'right' path. You always have to go through self-exploration and try things out. She sincerely advises the younger generations not to be afraid of making attempts to understand themselves better. ‘You'd only know better where to go after giving it a try,’ Mandy shared her own experience, ‘Don’t just focus on the result because the process of learning and growth are as well essential to our lives.’