Article by Kathy Pedersen, PA-C, MPAS with support from Richard Backman, MD
University of Utah DFPM physician assistant students attended the Thailand International Elective during the month of January 2023, directed by PA faculty Shaun Curran, PA-C, MPAS and Nicole King, PA-C.
The Thailand International Elective (TIE) was developed by the Utah Physician Assistant Program (UPAP) and started sending students on this faculty-led trip to Thailand in 2004. TIE is intended to help students who have an interest in global health broaden their knowledge of tropical diseases as well as poverty and its effect on health, work with displaced persons, and experience traditional Thai and Chinese approaches to medicine.
The first half of the trip is spent in Bangkok, where students interact with the Thai hospital system during didactic lectures and traditional grand rounds at a community hospital to learn about malaria, dengue fever, leprosy, and other tropical diseases. Students have clinical rotations in inpatient wards, outpatient clinics, and the emergency room.
The second half of the trip is split between two locations, Chiang Mai and Mae Sot. In Chiang Mai, students spend time in Chiang Dao Hospital and work with the community-based HIV/AIDS program affiliated with the hospital. Next, students spend time at a free clinic for displaced persons in Mae Sot, Thailand along the Thai/Burma border (Myanmar). Time in Mae Sot centers around experiences at the Mae Tao Clinic, which provides healthcare, education, and protection for vulnerable and displaced people living in the Thai-Burma border area and east Burma.
In 2008, the TIE program first visited the Mae Tao Clinic founded by Dr. Cynthia Maung. Dr. Maung's clinic provides health services for over 100,000 displaced Burmese patients every year at no cost to the patients. Dr. Cynthia trains allied health professionals to work in the clinic and refugee camps along the border. Students work side by side with Medics (a Thai analogue to Physician Assistants) and see patients in pediatric, adult, and reproductive health outpatient clinics. Students also spend time in surgery, labor and delivery, adult, and pediatric inpatient wards.
The interdisciplinary trip includes PA and PharmD students currently. The PA Division holds the elective during the month of January each year. Some side trip excursions to temples, ancient cities and the Grand Palace are unforgettable experiences.