Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

Medical Internship – Volunteer Stories

Volunteer Stories – Medical Internship

Rachel Stein : Minnesota,USA : Medical Internship October 2010

I loved my experience with Friends For Asia. I did something similar a year ago with a different organization, and where the last time was full of frustrations, this time was everything I needed it to be. They are very accommodating and pay attention to your individual needs. This organization is great for both experienced and inexperienced travelers, and they actually read my application and figured out a way to get me exactly what I wanted even though it wasn’t one of their typical placements! I couldn’t be happier with how things went.

Brody Jones : Colorado,USA : Medical Internship June 2010

Friends For Asia was great. They have people who help you with anything you need. The medical internship at McCormick was the best experience I could ever imagine. I was able to see many types of surgeries. They are very flexible, so you can choose which doctor you want to shadow each day. At lunch, you get to eat and converse with the doctors and here all of their stories. I definitely recommend this program for any pre-med or medical students. I volunteer at a hospital in the USA, and I have never been able to do anything like this before.

Brenda Yesul Hwang : Ontario,Cananda : Medical Internship June 2010

This was one of the best summers I could’ve hoped for. I already knew this would be a one-of-a-kind opportunity to work alongside doctors and expand my medical knowledge, but I never thought I would also have the chance to build such strong relationships/friendships with everyone here during my 5-week stay. I truly enjoyed my time at both McCormick and Maharaj, and loved meeting all the friendly doctors. I got to see surgeries that I had never even heard of before, such as an abdominoperineal resection of the rectum. Although it was slightly overwhelming at times to have to take the public transportation to and from our workplace, I look back at it now and feel that it only enriched my experience here in Thailand. I had a great time with everyone here at Friends for Asia, and it made it even more interesting that most people had different projects as we were all able to share stories from our own workplace at the end of the day. Todd, Run, and Aom were all very helpful when we had any questions, and were always willing to listen if we ever needed to talk about any problems/concerns regarding our placements. It was also great to see mountains everywhere I go in Chiang Mai, and I loved exploring outside the city on weekends. The experience overall was humbling and unforgettable, and I don’t regret a second of the 30 hours I flew to get here!

Rebekah Shaw : Georgia , USA : Medical Internship June 2010

I had a great experience with Friends for Asia and in Chiang Mai overall. I was at McCormick Hospital for my first 3 weeks and got to learn and see so much. I spent most of my mornings shadowing doctors in different departments such as pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine, surgery, radiology, and pathology as they had check-ups with patients, saw new patients, and prescribed medicines. The doctors were all great about explaining the patients’ conditions and how they were going to treat them. I spent most of my afternoons in the OR and got to see so many surgeries. I saw everything from C-sections to appendectomies to eye surgeries to hysterectomies, fracture repairs, and brain surgery. The surgeons were always great about explaining that they were doing and even showing me different organs during surgery. One of the greatest benefits of working at McCormick was being able to eat lunch with the doctors everyday. The volunteers sat with the doctors and we were able to build more personal relationships with them. We talked about soccer, medicine, and anything else in between. All the doctors were really friendly and felt flattered when you wanted to shadow them.

I spent my last week at Maharaj Hospital and Hang Dong Hospital and also had a great experience. Because Hang Dong Hospital is a small community hospital, I was able to have a more hands-on experience than at McCormick. I was able to take patients’ blood pressure and feel pregnant ladies’ bellies to determine the position of the baby. All of the doctors there were really nice and were great about answering all my questions. I definitely think this experience will help me in the future in pursuing a career in medicine. I will be able to talk about my experiences in these hospitals in interviews and essays for medical school and it is a great addition to my resume.

My experience outside the hospital was great as well. I enjoyed living in Chiang Mai and felt as though I really came to know the city. Having to get around on your own really helped me to learn where I was going and feel at home here. The group of volunteers that was here and I went out together almost every night for dinner, planned activities and sight-seeing for the afternoons, and went out partying when we wanted to. I also had the opportunity to go travel on the weekends and was really glad I got to see other cities besides just Chiang Mai. I went trekking, to Pai, and to Chiang Rai the 3 weekends I was here. All of Thailand is beautiful and there is so much to do and see here. I got to ride elephants, play with baby tigers, swim in waterfalls, observe surgeries, take a cooking class, get a massage, see a Muay Thai boxing match, go hiking, eat great Thai food, meet great people, and had the time of my life.

Janki Ghodasara : North Carolina,USA : Medical Internship May 2010

I learned a lot about hospital policies and the way the healthcare system here works. I learned about the different responsibilities of each type of doctor and that has probably helped me narrow down which kind of doctor I would like to be in the future. The doctors where very nice and tried to explain everything so that you could understand what was going on. I wish that the program had a little bit more structure and interaction between the intern and doing things (not necessarily medical things but having some sort of tasks other than observing all the time.) Other than that, the experience was nice.

Tommy Choy : Ontario , Canada Medical Internship May 2010

I had a great time here in Chiang Mai and large credit goes to Friends For Asia. They did a tremendous job of organizing the project and introducing us to our respective placements. The staff members were extremely friendly and continually followed up with us to ensure that we have the best and safest experience possible. I was especially impressed by their response to the recent violence caused by protesters in the region; in addition to calling and picking us (volunteers) up from the placements personally, they also kept us well informed of the situation as it evolved. I would definitely recommend this organization to anyone who is looking to volunteer in Chiang Mai.

Sunny Cai : Indiana , USA : Medical Internship May 2010

My stay and experience in Chiangmai, Thailand was incredible. The Friends For Asia – Thailand organization did a wonderful job of educating us on the culture, the various dangers, and of the possible tourist attractions to attend. The medical internship was… amazing. I’ll pick out an experience at random. Dr. Sukanya, the radiologist, showed me how to perform an ultrasound examination and how to see particular abnormalities. As she handed me the probe, she first had me locate the bilateral kidneys, pointing out that dilation of the cortex may be indicative of hydronephrosis. She then helped me navigate to locate the liver, pancreas, stomach, and uterus. The gallbladder was interesting, since it took me a couple of tries, but I finally was able to see the two gallstones in the gallbladder. The large black void next to the bladder was an ovarian cyst – it was huge. Reading an ultrasound well takes a lot of experience, Dr. Sukanya told me, but it’s nice that now I can (somewhat) read an ultrasound!

Allison Priest:Kentucky,USA : Medical Internship April 2010

Volunteering abroad is not just for gap year students. Adults of all ages can have the opportunity to learn new skills and to experience different cultures. After thirteen years as an ESL teacher, I decided to change my career to nursing. Spending time as a medical intern helped to confirm that nursing is the right choice for me. I learned so much from observing doctors and nurses at work in various departments of the hospital. I will soon start nursing school with more confidence and a better understanding of the medical field thanks to this valuable experience.

Olivia Ragni, Arkansas, USA : Medical Internship April 2010

Friends For Asia helped me totally immerse myself in Thai culture and the hospital environment through my medical internship placement. By designing my own schedule, I got to see doctors working in Pediatrics, Pathology, Dentistry, the Operating Room, Hematology, and Physical and Occupational Therapy. My two weeks felt short, but I still developed a thorough understanding of how a hospital is run and had a very well-rounded experience.

Lauren Pearce : Kansas , USA : Medical Internship January 2010

When I signed up for the medical internship I had no idea what to expect. Would I be changing bed pans or expected to give injections? (Neither of these seemed like good options for me.) The individualized approach, being able to choose which departments you want to visit and how much time you spend in them, allowed me to maximize my experience and gain insight into many aspects of the Thai health care system. Your options are only limited by your desires. I loved standing alongside the doctors and nurses in the operating room while they explained the craniotomy, amputation or cesarean section they were performing; an opportunity generally reserved for students in their residency in the United States. Practicing ultrasounds on actual patients and doing rounds with the cardiologist, learning how to identify various cardio-pulmonary ailments, were great ways to gain hands on experience. Chiang Mai University is a wonderful place to learn about the preclinical and administrative aspects of the health care system. The Biochemistry Department is conducting fascinating research and the staff is welcoming to interested minds. CMU has several clinics, including the STI and TB clinics which grant particular insight into the needs and problems of the district which covers eight provinces in Northern Thailand. The best aspect of the internship is the amount of direct interaction with the doctors and department heads, all of whom treat you as a respected guest and personal tutee. Staying in the volunteer house was like having a living guide book. Other volunteers are great resources for places to eat or weekend activities and because we all have a common interest in our work here it is easy to forge new friendships. Run and Aom are a wonderful combination; each has their own positive attributes and between the two nearly any question can be answered. I would recommend renting a bicycle and soi-riding around Chiang Mai, one of my favorite pastimes and a great way to see the daily goings-on of the smaller neighborhoods. Street food in Chiang Mai is plentiful and a cheap, delicious way to step outside your comfort zone. (What’s 25 baht if you don’t like it? At least a great story.) Overall I would classify my experience in Chiang Mai as enriching, both personally and professionally. The people at Friends for Asia and the hospital were welcoming, supportive and helpful. I was felt well taken care of during my time here and am leaving with strong friendships and an expanded knowledge of the medical system in Thailand. Thank you!

Debra Orringer, New York, USA – Medical Intern, January, 2010

“This is an amazing experience for anyone who wants a career in medicine. In the US, I would have never been able to see the amount of surgeries I’ve seen and participate first hand in different medical procedures. The other volunteers on the program were really nice and down to Earth. The two volunteer coordinators, Run and Fai, where always helpful and look for our best interests. I always felt safe and cared for.”

Samantha Gray, Hawaii, USA – Medical Intern, January, 2010

“I really enjoyed my time at Friends for Asia. I arrived in Chiang Mai not knowing what kind of experience I was about to encounter for the next two weeks and I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was well organized and the staff was extremely supportive. I really appreciated the 2 day orientation and thought it was a great way to get the internship started.”

Connor Champion, Louisiana, USA – Medical Intern, January, 2010

“My experience working as a medical intern in Thailand through Friends For Asia has exceeded my expectations in every conceivable respect. From the moment when I arrived here and was greeted by Run, I was put at ease. My fears of this foreign region melted away quite rapidly. After the orientation (especially the language courses taught by Fai and tour of the markets) and being quickly assimilated into the family atmosphere of the group house, I genuinely felt comfortable and at home in Thailand.”

“This smooth transition would carry on into my first days at the hospital. I, along with my fellow intern Hanna King, was introduced to Dr. Borisut, who in turn, introduced me Dr. Narong, chief of surgery. After showing me around the hospital, Dr. Narong said the magic words “you can head over to the OR now.” I can still vividly remember seeing my first surgery ever – a hysterectomy. Standing only 2-3 feet away from where the operation was being performed was a dream that I had longed to come true for many years. Further, the staff was so polite and ready to answer any questions. Later on in my first day, I went to lunch where I was able to meet most of the doctors like Dr. Adul, director of the hospital and Dr. Arida, a very kind pediatrician who allowed me to shadow her for a day whom I would see working in the hospital nearly every day. While there, I was happy to find that the doctors were as interested in me as I was with them.”

“After the first day of my internship, I felt like I was part of the OR. Throughout the first week, I would bounce from room to room always seeing a new procedure and being told how and why it was being performed. Further, some days after lunch, I would accompany the hospitals only neurosurgeon, Dr. Manode, on his rounds throughout the intensive care unit. His explanations of each case were so informative and were great examples of an outstanding doctor/patient relationship.”

“When my second week approached, I knew that the OR was my place at the hospital so I asked to be allowed to stay there an additional week and my request was generously granted. The nurses such as Lynda, Pong, and Panum, and the Doctors such as Dr. Annat, Dr. Bop, Dr. C, Dr. Nush, Dr. Niran, and Dr. Narong were so polite, knowledgeable, and caring that I felt like the OR at the hospital was my home away from my home at Friends For Asia. In fact, One day I was even coaxed into taking a nap in the doctor’s sleeping quarters by one of the nurses when I was not feeling my best.”

“As mentioned earlier, my experience at the hospital was more than amazing. Aside from actually being able to witness surgeries, conversing with the staff about cultural differences and similarities, learning about many surgical procedures and diagnoses, discussing Thai public health issues helped make this internship abroad the most valuable and impressionable medical experience in my life thus far. I can not thank the staff at the hospital for opening their arms, hearts, and minds. I can now return to my home with the unshakable belief that I will be a surgeon one day … an outstanding surgeon.”

“On a side note, I would like to say that it was a pleasure to meet and shadow Dr. Manode. He is a valuable asset to the hospital and the Chiang Mai Health Care system. Moreover, I was delighted to see that along with being an extremely hard-working doctor, he is a loving father, an endearing husband, a loyal friend, and a fantastic tennis player with a genuine smile that shows that he is living life to the fullest. Undoubtedly, he is the doctor that I will strive to be like. I can only hope that I will amount to half the man he is. In short, he is an asset to the field of medicine and the world we live in.”

Volunteer Stories – Medical Internship – 2010

Volunteer Stories – Medical Internship – 2009