4333Visitors | [2017-05-12]
TMWA Scholarship Program for Female Medical Students
Dedicated to Rural Practice
The inspiration for this Program came from Professor Kusuma Snidvongs (กุสุมา สนิทวงศ์ ณ อยุธยา) Kusuma Snidvongs na Ayudhya (จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย คณะรัฐศาสตร์). Her father, M.L. Ter Snidvongs (นายแพทย์ ม.ล. เต่อ สนิทวงศ์), was a medical doctor who received the Princess Srinagarindra Award to study medicine in America and then returned to practice rural medicine for several years in Ubon Ratchathani Province. During his career he held important positions in many hospitals, including Chief Director of Lerdsin Hospital.
The stories that Professor Snidvongs heard from her father about the lack of doctors and medical care in the rural areas of Thailand left upon her a deep and lasting impression. As a result, she has had a lifelong concern about healthcare for people in the countryside.
Professor Snidvongs completed her undergraduate degree in political science at Tufts University near Boston and her PhD at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. After returning to Thailand, she had an illustrious career as a professor of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University (จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย คณะรัฐศาสตร์). She was also co-founder and chairman of the ASEAN Institute of Securities and International Studies, where she played an important role as advisor to the Thai government regarding international and regional security affairs.
During a trip to Tokyo in the mid-1980s to visit her nephew, Birabhongse Kasemsri, who was then the Ambassador of Thailand to Japan, Professor Snidvongs met Professor Jason Roussos, who was head of the Philosophy Department at Sophia University. They developed friendly relations, and when he died, it was Professor Snidvongs who suggested that the moneys in his estate be used to start a scholarship program in Thailand for doctors committed to careers in rural medicine.
Professor Roussos also had a remarkable career. Born in Greece, he studied Physics at Brandeis University near Boston and then completed his PhD in Philosophy at Oxford University. His family had close connections with Thailand from the time of Rama VI, and he had many Thai friends. During his teaching career in Japan, Professor Roussos also lectured at several universities in Thailand, including Thammasat University; and in 1988 he received a decoration, “The Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand”, from the king.
After the national crisis that followed the tsunami of 2004, it was clear that there were insufficient medical resources on the western coast to meet the needs of the local people. With the guidance and assistance of the Ministry of Public Health, the Thai Women’s Medical Association took action by starting a scholarship program in 2005—using the initial bequest from the estate of Professor Roussos—in order to help female medical students whose families were devastated by the tsunami. Scholarships were thereafter given annually to a widening group of worthy students from other regions. This was the beginning of the current nationwide program, which up to 2016 has provided full or partial tuition & living support to over 50 students who are committed to careers as doctors in rural areas.
First Award Ceremony
Professor Kusuma Snidvongs and Dr. Suwanee Raktham, president of
Thai Medical Women Association, in 2005
Scholars selected from all parts of country
Scholarship Program and TMWA Objectives
The Thai Medical Women’s Association, organized in 1959 under the Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, is a professional organization devoted to philanthropic activities which focus on women’s health and enhancing the capabilities of Thai women doctors. The TMWA strives to educate and empower its members through academic programs, funding research by members, and encouraging professional excellence through its annual “Distinguished Medical Woman” award, given to members who have served public health issues at a national level.
Since 2005, the TMWA Scholarship Program for Rural Female Medical Students has expanded the organization’s contribution to the shortage of physicians in the country’s provinces. While the government subsidizes medical education nationwide as well as regional medical facilities, most doctors move to the major cities after completing their three-year mandatory internships in the countryside. As a result, while there is one physician to 867 residents in Bangkok, there is only one physician to 7,015 residents in Northeast Thailand, for example.
The TMWA program selects financially needy and academically promising students who want to return to their homes in the provinces. After graduation from medical school, if they choose, they can continue post-graduate studies in regional hospitals with the support of the Ministry of Public Health before returning to their home towns.
Scholar Selection and Award Process
The new scholar selection process takes place on an annual cycle. The TMWA selection committee, with the assistance of the Ministry of Public Health, communicates in the spring with all of the regional medical colleges and identifies worthy students from provincial regions who have financial need. The degree of financial need and the commitment to rural medicine are the main selection criteria.
These students normally apply for full six-year medical college scholarships with living expenses. However, on occasion, students in the middle of their studies who have unanticipated financial difficulties may also apply.
During the summer, the TMWA selection committee reviews these applicants and, based on the amount of scholarship moneys pledged by donors that year, the committee selects from 2-5 new recipients by the beginning of September. Scholarships are awarded at the TMWA annual meeting in the beginning of October.
Scholarships are granted without the requirement for repayment—but only on condition that the recipients commit to practicing medicine in their rural home towns or other regional areas of Thailand.
Mentoring Scholarship Recipients by TMWA Members
The TMWA makes a special effort to nurture and mentor these scholarship recipients through various Association-sponsored activities aimed at educating them about sound professional concepts and practices. The goal is to “cultivate the sprouts”, with a particular focus on those promising students who lack the financial resources for a medical education.
The Association members meet with these young scholars once a year at the annual meeting in Bangkok; chat with them throughout the year via social media group-lines; and exchange new and proven concepts about providing patient care, social skills, and avoiding unsound healthcare practices. This older-sister younger-sister mentorship contributes to the scholars’ sense of self-esteem and intellectual and professional accomplishment. It also encourages them to provide warm and best-practice care to their patients as well as to maintain their commitment to practice medicine in rural areas.
So, in addition to the financial support, the personal guidance and career support from Association members is a tremendous benefit and advantage to scholarship recipients.
Special Efforts by TMWA Members and the Ministry of Public Health
Over the 12 years-to-date of this scholarship program, the vision and support from TMWA program founders and selection committee members deserve to be acknowledged. Special appreciation must be expressed for the enlightened guidance of Dr. Suwanee Raktham, who was the Association president when this program was established. The program’s success and growth could not have been possible without the continued support and encouragement from subsequent Association presidents: Dr. Porapan Punyaratabandhu, Dr.Chamaree Chuapetcharasophon , and Porf. Emeritus Dr. Khun Nanta Maranetra .
Recognition must also be given to the tireless and selfless efforts of founding and current selection committee members, including Drs. Pattariya Jarutat, Siraporn Sawasdivorn, Assoc. Prof. Dr.Orapin Singhadej , Dr.Jantra Chennavasin, and Dr.Pivanetr Sukhupunyaraksa.
The role and support of the Ministry of Public Health in the establishment and continued success of this program must also be highlighted. Special appreciation is expressed to Dr, Suwat Lertsukprasert , director of Education Program for Rural doctors, founding committee member and to his successors.
A photo of the 2016 selection committee members is found below.
Appreciation for Important Donors
Following the initial bequest from the estate of Professor Jason Roussos which established this program, the program’s growth in the early years was made possible by contributions from two of his close friends in Japan, George Curuby and Tomoko Kanno. Over time, as the program’s importance and success became more widely known, the number and scale of donors increased substantially.
Particular thanks should be given to major donors, including the Stone Family Foundation in Los Angeles, which is committed to the strengthening of rural healthcare services in Thailand; to Mrs. La-0r Tungkarhavakhun, the president of Thailand Paint Company; to Dr. Chamaree Chuapetcharasophon, former TWMA president; and to the Thai Physicians Association of America.
A list of significant donors is found at the end of this report. Now that the program has reached a critical mass of 50+ scholars, it is possible for donors of large- and small-scale to make meaningful contributions. All sizes of support are warmly welcomed.