In the World With COVID-19: Thasala, Thailand

Written by Dr. Prachyapan Petchuay, Dean of Walailak University School of Medicine

I remember the early stage of COVID-19. We were celebrating the New Year. We were aware of the disease outbreak in China but because the confirmed cases in Thailand were less than 50, the atmosphere was still relaxed. People in Nakhon Si Thammarat were gathering in the shopping malls and markets. We still went to concerts, enjoyed sports events, and attended art exhibitions. We believed that it wouldn't reach us here.

Letting Go and Letting It Happen

Written by Russell Himmelstein, University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Class of 2020

It's hard to believe my time in Thailand is already coming to an end, just as fast as it began. Although my time here is cut short, I took full advantage of the experiences I was given the opportunity to have. I am going to miss the simplicity of life here—walking outside and hearing birds I’ve never heard of in the U.S., seeing the lotus plants, and feeling the warm air touch my face. Carrying my water jug to fill up for 5 baht, just 16 cents.

An Environment Where Medicine Is Truly Medicine

Written by Russell Himmelstein, UVMLCOM Class of 2020

As my first week in Thailand comes to a close, many thoughts are buzzing around my mind. I am in awe of the extreme hospitality and sense of togetherness that Thai people have for one another and especially for their guests. The country and its cultures are truly beautiful. The dean of the medical school, Dr. Menn, treated us to lunch, dinner, and hot springs upon our arrival.

The Edge

Written by Isaac de la Bruere, UVMLCOM Class of 2022

A river of sweat is slowly trickling down the small of my back, gathering tributaries from the rolling hills formed by my scapulae. My collared shirt is damp in several areas, even though I have an undershirt on today. The heat and humidity are unforgiving at this time of day. I adjust the stethoscope around my neck as we walk into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). A blast of cool air greets me. There are fourteen beds, each one supporting the form of a human being in various states of consciousness and positioning. There are no individual rooms, or even curtains between the patients. Only intravenous stands and banana bags of medications and saline.

Finding Home: Part II

Written by Ray Mak, University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Class of 2022

Independence is valued in American culture, rendering it acceptable to settle down far from home. On the other hand, maintaining strong family ties is a common theme in Asian cultures. From speaking with Thai medical students, I found that they often feel homesick while studying at Walailak. However, one reason why many choose to study there is that the school strives to train doctors from underserved areas of Southern Thailand so that graduates can return to their hometown and serve the community they grew up in.

Finding Home: Part I

Written by Ray Mak, UVMLCOM Class of 2022

Where is home for you? If I had to pin a physical location, I would consider Southern California my home. Though I only lived there for four years in college, they were the best years of my life. I felt truly at home. For some, home isn’t defined by where you grow up, how long you’ve lived in a particular place, or where your parents chose to settle down. Rather, it’s measured in the love and safety to nurture your authentic self. For me, home is not held in a physical space, but within the circles of people I hold close to me. Home truly is where the heart is and unexpectedly, I left a piece of my heart in Thailand this summer.

Week Two at Walailak University

Written by Collin Montgomery '22

Week two really saw us begin to get down to business with Walailak University. On Monday, we toured the university campus and enjoyed a welcoming reception with the Office of International Relations, where we had the opportunity to meet  a group of French medical students, which was really nice. On Tuesday, we took part in a Problem-Based Learning exercise with Walailak medical students, which served as a fantastic review of hypersensitivity reactions and contact dermatitis! Wednesday entailed an experience in an outpatient clinic with a family medicine physician.

The Gate

Written by Isaac de la Bruere, UVMLCOM Class of 2022

This poem came to me after our visit to the Phud Hong Leprosy Community near our town in Thailand. It was an incredibly powerful experience to see how its members have adapted to life within their community. All the residents are elderly, as there have been very few new cases of leprosy in the region in the last couple of decades.

The Value of Seemingly Simple Skills

Dr. Zhou Li, Medical Resident at Norwalk Hospital

Due to a shortage of doctors and large patient volume, the MDs here are well-rounded with superb hands-on skills in all procedures. Even senior medical students in their sixth (final) year - called "externs" - regularly handle procedures that are usually designated to specialists in North America, such as endotracheal intubation, and even perform simple surgeries such as Cesarean sections or appendectomies as the only surgeon, as opposed to the first assistant!