The University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine has undergone a great expansion under the visionary leadership of Dean Stephen Klasko. One of the highlights has been its growing partnership with Thailand’s Srinakharinwirot University. This partnership exemplifies the Morsani College of Medicine’s international efforts, with a vibrant student exchange, joint electronic sites, shared scientific projects, as well as frequent faculty visits.
On November 26, 2008 President Judy Genshaft of the University of South Florida and President Wiroon Tangcharoen of Srinakharinwirot University jointly signed an Academic Collaboration and Student Exchange Program memorandum. The agreement outlined an exchange of undergraduate, graduate, and medical students as well as plans for future medical training. “This is an exciting and important agreement for global education in medicine and other fields for both institutions,” said President Genshaft. Click here for more info on the signing of the collaborative agreement.
President Genshaft traveled to Thailand in November of 2008 with Ms. Rhea Law, Chair of the USF Board of Trustees, Dean Stephen Klasko, Dr. John Sinnott, Associate Dean for USF Medicine International, Dr. Lynette Menezes, Director, USF Medicine International and Dr. Charurut Somboonwit, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases and USF Medicine International's Country Education Coordinator for Thailand. The agreement marked an addition to the College of Medicine’s international partners, expanding USF and SWU’s reach beyond its local scope.
“We had a great trip that allowed us to discuss our shared commitment to student opportunities and further build an already strong relationship,”- President Genshaft
Prior to the signing ceremony, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented the Global Leadership Award to President Genshaft and Stephen Klasko, CEO for USF Health and Dean of the College of Medicine. The Global Leadership Award is the first such award given in recognition of initiative and commitment to excellence in global education. Dr. Sinnott received a Special Recognition Medal from the Princess at this time as well.
The Medical School of Srinakharinwirot University was established on June 16th, 1985 with the initial purpose to resolve the shortage of doctors in Thailand. The project was a joint venture between Srinakharinwirot University and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, taking advantage of the already existing resources in terms of manpower, equipment, and organization.
Previously Vajira Hospital was the main teaching hospital for clinical studies. SWU was able to expand to include the Police General Hospital and many community hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health as affiliated teaching facilities. Through these new partnerships the medical students were able to gain more experiences from the diversity of patients.
Nowadays, the main teaching venue is a 500 bed hospital covering 60,000 square meters at the Ongkharak campus in Nakhonnayok province, 50 miles east of Bangkok. The hospital was named after the beloved crown princess of Thailand as “HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Medical Center”, and the official opening ceremony was conducted by the princess herself on November 2nd, 2001.
The mission at the HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Medical Center is to be a firm base for medical education, thereby enhancing the potential of its students and faculty towards academic excellence. Over the years, SWU has been involved in medical student and faculty member exchanges through the International Federation of Medical Students Associations and the Thai Physicians Association of America. It is the first medical school in Thailand to provide joint-venture medical doctor program training with the University of Nottingham. Their collaboration has extended across the globe to University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine and Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. SWU hopes to have its students visiting, enjoying, and most importantly learning from their experiences all across the world.
Perhaps the most significant product of this partnership, the student exchange has become a well-established system in which students from either university have the chance to travel, either to conduct research or rotate in university-affiliated hospitals. USF has had the privilege of hosting twenty-one SWU students, with two more arriving in February 2013. SWU students have rotated in a diverse range of sub-specialties including pediatrics, neurology, infectious disease, cardiology, surgery, and family medicine, lasting two to four weeks.
So far six USF medical students and two undergraduate students have traveled to Thailand to conduct individual and collaborative research. SWU graciously welcomed the students, and actively participated in teaching them about medicine in Thailand. Students have agreed that it was a unique and enlightening experience to practice medicine in another country and to see a different academic paradigm.
Michael Cameron, Class of 2015
I conducted clinical research at a tertiary public hospital in Ongkharak, Thailand, a small town in the outskirts of greater Bangkok. My research in vascular surgery focused on tunneled-cuffed catheter placements/removals for hemodialysis in patients with renal failure and primarily consisted of retrospective chart analysis. In my free time, I also had the opportunity to shadow a urologist both in clinic and the operating room.
The most rewarding part of my trip was the time I spent rounding in the wards with the urologist and other SWU medical students! From a wealth development standpoint, Thailand is a country in transition; and as a relatively rural public hospital in a country that attempts to provide universal care, resources were understandably limited. As such, it was an eye-opening experience to round through their wards and see how differently care is provided there. I found that although they are missing a lot of standardizations, resources, and technologies that would improve healthcare, there simultaneously exists a warmth and humanistic approach that one is hard-pressed to find sometimes in American hospitals.
My advice to other students would be to immerse yourself in the culture and take yourself out of your comfort zone. While there, I rode an elephant, got coral reef stuck in my hand while kayaking, crashed a mo-ped, and met countless interesting people (Try to avoid a couple of those experiences). Have as many interesting conversations as you can; it's a free way to learn a lot. Make sure you enjoy the food, the people, and the vibrant culture. It is an unforgettable experience.
Jancy Mathew, Class of 2015
Over the summer of 2012, I traveled to Nakhon Nayok, Ongkharak, Thailand for four weeks to conduct my research project. My project was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Woraphot Tantisirwat, an Infectious Disease Specialist at HRH Princess Sirindhorn Medical Center Infectious Disease Clinic. The initial phase of my project involved data collection. The data collection process took four weeks in which the medical staff had to translate each patient's chart from Thai to English as I, along with two other classmates, entered the data into a secure electronic database. Along with the data collection, I was able to observe Dr. Woraphot in the Infectious Disease clinic as he saw his patients.
Over the course of my trip, in addition to strengthening my research and clinical skills, the immersion into the Thai culture inevitably strengthened my interpersonal and professional skills. Working at the clinic further enhanced my cultural awareness and sensitivity with other Thai researching medical students as well as Dr. Tantisirwat’s patients.
The best part of my trip was truly immersing myself in the Thai culture. By living in Nakhon Nayok, which is about eighty kilometers outside Thailand’s major city of Bangkok, I was able to experience the life of a student as I lived in the medical dorms for the entire month. I establish very close friendships with the Thai medical students I met as well as other exchange students who came to SWU on international elective rotations. The Thai friends I made took me to small, family run restaurants and markets that only the locals go to. I was able to try food unlike any western Thai restaurant I had ever had before! Living in this small, conservative, college town was a state of true cultural immersion- an opportunity I have never had before and an invaluable experience I will never forget.
Faculty exchange is one of the other goals that this partnership is focused on. Faculty from USF College of Medicine have been invited speakers at SWU meetings and conferences since 2008 and USF hosted Dr. Thassanawut (Taz) Dhearapanya an ER physician in September 2013. Visiting faculty have the opportunity to see our community first-hand and bond with USF faculty and medical students, promoting our partnership and shared community.
Thassanawut (Taz) Dhearapanya, MD, SWU, Thailand
I had the privilege to visit USF Health/TGH as part of my role as an Assistant Dean for International Relations and also as an Emergency Physician in late 2011. Although a short period of time, it was an eye-opening experience. Wandering through most parts of the TGH was a walk to remember, as this is not only a state-of-the-art, tertiary-level healthcare facility but also a sanctuary for those medical students, interns and residents who are eager to learn how to be healthcare personnel with dignity and skills.
I was placed in the Emergency Department, Trauma Ward and Operating Theater where I witnessed first-hand, how to handle different situations professionally and humanely.
The warm weather and the city are an added bonus for those who wish to visit this part of the United States. It’s a no-brainer, a perfect destination for a clinical/elective placement.
With the arrival of SWU delegation in January 2013 that includes senior leadership from the Faculty of Medicine, Health Sciences, Nursing, Pharmacy, Business and Engineering, we hope to continue our vibrant student and faculty exchange, as well as expand into shared scientific research projects. Many students in the Morsani College of Medicine’s International Medicine Scholarly Concentration have shown an interest in traveling to Thailand for summer 2013 to conduct research. Faculty are currently working with these students to develop research projects, allowing for the next group of interested students to experience SWU and Thailand first hand.
In February 2013, USF and Tampa General will host 15 administrators from hospitals and academic centers across Thailand. These senior level administrators include Deans of Medical Schools, Directors and Associate Directors of Hospitals who will participate in our three-week Hospital Administrator Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) Training.