Prince Mahidol & medical education in Thailand

Prince Mahidol & medical education in Thailand

After teaching at the Royal Naval Academy for a time, Prince Mahidol found his true mission in life: to improve medicine and public health in Thailand.


The prince, the foundation, and the transformation of medical education in Thailand


Prince Mahidol had a deep interest in public health and medicine that had been cultivated during his studies in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. In 1905, when he was 13, his father King Rama V sent him to London to the Harrow School, where he remained for 18 months. His father, perhaps because of his acquaintance with the German Kaiser, then decided that Mahidol should move to Berlin for military training at the Imperial Military Academy. When Rama VI ascended the throne, he convinced the Prince to enroll in the German Naval Academy. In addition to his studies, the Prince was assigned to a German battleship, where he cleaned decks and shovelled coal.

Pictures from excerpt of the book Innovative Partners: The Rockefeller Foundation And Thailand.

He graduated from the academy second in his class. Returning to Thailand as war in Europe approached, he took a teaching position at the Royal Naval Academy. His tenure was marked by controversy because he advocated a Thai navy of numerous patrol boats designed to protect the country's extensive coastline, while senior officers favored a navy of fewer but larger heavily armed ships.

Prince Mahidol left the navy and began a search for another way to serve his country. One of his half-brothers, Prince Rangsit, provided him with a new perspective. The two had been close growing up, and Prince Rangsit was anxious to show his half-brother his work as the director of the Royal Medical College. He invited Prince Mahidol to visit him at Siriraj Hospital, where the medical school was located. Prince Rangsit did not have the status or financial resources that Prince Mahidol had. His mother was a commoner whereas Mahidol's mother had royal blood. Rangsit hoped to enlist his half-brother in his mission to improve medicine and public health in Thailand. He hoped Mahidol would encourage greater royal support.

On his first visit Prince Mahidol was appalled at conditions in the hospital. Ultimately he agreed to help his half-brother, but he also decided to enroll in a university programme in public health to prepare for a career in the medical field. He attended Edinburgh University, but suffered from a chronic kidney problem and concluded that the Scottish climate was not good for his health. He enrolled instead in the Certificate in Public Health programme at Harvard University arriving in Boston in 1916 to begin his studies.

While engaged in his course work, the Prince continued to follow developments in Thailand. He worked on plans to improve Siriraj Hospital and also to organise a new medical school curriculum. At Prince Mahidol's request, Prince Rangsit recommended names of students for scholarships in medicine and nursing. Prince Mahidol hoped these students would return to Thailand to teach after training in the United States. He even paid some of their educational expenses out of his personal funds. His mother also helped fund the studies of two nurses each year.

In 1918, the Prince began to spend a lot of time with one of the nursing students, Sangwan Talaphat. They became engaged in 1919 and were married on a trip back to Thailand in 1920. After their marriage, they returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Prince completed his studies. He and his wife had their first child in 1923, Princess Galyani. Later they had two sons, Prince Ananda and Prince Bhumibol, each of whom became king.

During the course of Prince Mahidol's studies at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation increased its interest in working with the Thai government to improve medical and nurses training. Late in January 1922, Dr Pearce sent his proposal to the Minister of Education, detailing ways to improve medical education in Thailand. Early in February Prince Mahidol entered discussions about the proposal at a meeting in London with Rockefeller Foundation president George E. Vincent and Wickliffe Rose, the head of the International Health Board. With his knowledge of the proposal, his understanding of the issues of medical education, and his frank assessment of the challenges in his country, the Prince won both men over. Later in the month the Prince also met President Vincent in Berne, Switzerland, where they discussed in detail the financial requirements of establishing a modern medical school in Thailand. Vincent believed the Prince wanted to make clear that he knew the magnitude of what was required, in large part to ensure that there would not be any later misunderstandings.

Two months later, in April 1922, the Thai minister of education formally asked the Prince to serve as president of a committee to conduct negotiations with the Foundation. In Paris six months later, Prince Mahidol and Dr Pearce met for the first time. With Prince Mahidol representing the minister of education, they worked out in detail a cooperative arrangement. Once the Thai government and the Foundation approved, the Prince and Pearce met again, in London and New York, to plan implementation of the agreement. The cooperative arrangement included hiring six visiting professors to organise medical instruction; starting a building programme to expand the school; and establishing a Foundation fellowship programme for post-graduate Thai teachers to study abroad. Another cooperative arrangement was reached later for additional building projects for the medical and nursing schools.

Cooperation at the highest levels also led to an agreement to improve the teaching of pre-medical subjects. This arrangement was between the Foundation and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Chulalongkorn University. Prince Mahidol approved this cooperative arrangement in September 1923, which led to a five-year agreement for four visiting professors and postgraduate fellowships for study abroad... [download the free ebook (here or here) and continue reading the story...]

Innovative Partners: The Rockefeller Foundation and Thailand can be downloaded at The annual Prince Mahidol Awards Conference, an international health forum, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and other global partners takes place this week in Pattaya until Jan 31.

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  • acquaintance: a person you know but who you are not close friends with - คนคุ้นเคย  
  • additional: more; more than was first mentioned or is usual - ที่เพิ่มขึ้น
  • adj (noun): connected with soldiers or the armed forces - ในทางทหาร,เกี่ยวกับทหาร
  • advocate: someone who strongly and publicly supports someone or something - ผู้สนับสนุน
  • anxious: wanting something very much - กระตือรือร้น, กระสับกระส่าย, ร้อนใจ
  • appalled: shocked or having strong feelings of disapproval - ท้อใจ, ผิดหวังอย่างมาก
  • approach: moving or coming closer - การเข้าใกล้
  • armed: carrying a weapon - ติดอาวุธ
  • arrangement: a plan or preparation that you make so that something can happen - การจัดการ
  • ascend : to go up - ขึ้นไป (เสด็จพระราชดำเนินขึ้นสู่)
  • assessment: a judgment or opinion - การประเมิน
  • assign: to give a person a particular task or position - มอบหมาย, สั่งงาน
  • attend: to go to an event, such as a meeting, a show, a sports competition, etc. - เข้าร่วม (ในการประชุม, งานต่าง)
  • career: a job or series of related jobs that you do, especially a profession that you spend a lot of your working life in - อาชีพ
  • certificate: an official document that proves that something is true; such as finishing a course of study at a school - ประกาศนียบัตร; หนังสือรับรอง
  • challenge: something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย
  • chronic (adj): (of a disease, pain or problem) serious and lasting for a long time - เป็นประจำ
  • climate: the general weather conditions usually found in a particular place - สภาพอากาศ
  • close (adjective): knowing a person very well, working or living with the person, being involved with, familiar with - ที่มีความใกล้ชิดกัน, อยู่ชิดหรือใกล้กัน
  • coastline: an area of land beside the sea - ชายฝั่ง
  • committee: a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ
  • commoner: an ordinary person who is not a member of a royal family - สามัญชน
  • conclude: to decide that something is true after looking at all the evidence you have - สรุป
  • condition: the physical state of a person, animal, thing or place - สภาพ
  • conduct: to carry out — - ดำเนิน
  • continued: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน
  • controversy: a disagreement that a lot of people have strong feelings about - ความขัดแย้ง
  • convince: to make somebody/yourself believe that something is true; to persuade somebody to do something - ทำให้เชื่อ, ทำให้แน่ใจ, ชักจูง
  • cooperative: joint; done together with one or more people or groups - ความร่วมมือกัน
  • course: a course of study, a program of study - หลักสูตร, วิชา, กระบวนวิชา
  • cultivate: to develop an attitude, a way of talking or behaving, etc - ทำให้พัฒนาขึ้น
  • curriculum: the group of subjects studied in a school, college, etc - หลักสูตร
  • deck (noun): the top outside floor of a ship, boat or building - ดาดฟ้าเรือ
  • detail (noun): the small facts or features of something - รายละเอียด, ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, ส่วนย่อย
  • development: a new event or stage that is likely to affect what happens in a continuing situation - ความคืบหน้า
  • director: one of a group of senior managers who run a company - กรรมการบริษัท
  • discussion: conversation; talk - การสนทนา, การอภิปราย
  • encourage: to cause someone to be more likely to happy - กระตุ้น
  • engagement: an agreement to marry somebody; the period during which two people are engaged - การหมั้น
  • enlist: to ask for and get help or support from someone - ขอความช่วยเหลือ
  • enrolling (noun): putting someone onto the official list of members of a course or college - ลงทะเบียน
  • ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
  • establish: to start a company or organization that will likely continue for a long time - สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง
  • extensive: great in amount; covering a large area - กว้างขวาง
  • field (noun): an area of specialized knowledge that people work, study, teach and do research in - สาขา, วงการ, แวดวง
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • foundation: an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ
  • frank: honest about the situation or your opinions, even if this offends people - ตรงไปตรงมา, ไม่อ้อมค้อม
  • fund: money provided for something - เงินทุน กองทุน
  • graduate: to get a degree from a university or college; to complete a course in education, especially at high school - ได้รับปริญญา,สำเร็จการศึกษา
  • half-brother: a brother who has either the same mother or same father as you, in this case, the same father - พี่เลี้ยง หมายถึงพี่ที่เกิดจากพ่อหรือแม่เลี้ยงกับคู่สมรสเก่า
  • implementation: the process of making something such as a plan, system, idea or law start to work and be used - การบังคับใช้ (กฎหมาย)
  • in detail: in a very thorough way and with careful attention to facts - อย่างพิถีพิถัน
  • invite: to ask somebody formally to go somewhere or do something - เชิญ
  • issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น
  • knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้
  • located: where something is - ตั้งอยู่
  • magnitude: size, either great or small - ขนาด,ความใหญ่,ความสำคัญ
  • marriage: the ceremony in which two people become husband and wife; the legal relationship between a husband and wife - การแต่งงาน, การสมรส, ภาวะที่แต่งงานกัน
  • medical: connected with illness and injury and their treatment - ทางการแพทย์, ด้านการแพทย์, เกี่ยวกับการแพทย์
  • mission: an important piece of work that a person or a group of people has been given to do - ภาระกิจ หน้าที่
  • misunderstanding: a situation in which a comment, an instruction, etc. is not understood correctly - ความเข้าใจผิด
  • negotiations: formal discussion in which people or groups try to reach an agreement - การเจรจาต่อรอง
  • numerous: many - มากมาย
  • nurse: someone who is trained to look after ill or injured people, usually in a hospital - พยาบาล
  • nursing: the job or skill of caring for people/animals who are sick or injured - การพยาบาล
  • patrol boats: military or police boats that go around an area regular to make sure there is no trouble there - เรือลาดตระเวน
  • personal: your own; not belonging to or connected with anyone else - เป็นส่วนตัว
  • perspective: a particular way of considering something - ทัศนคติ
  • position: a job - ตำแหน่ง
  • professor: a university teacher of the highest rank - ศาสตราจารย์
  • proposal: a plan or suggestion for a group to consider - ข้อเสนอ
  • protect: to make sure that somebody/something is not harmed, injured, damaged, etc - ป้องกัน,อารักขา,คุ้มกัน
  • public health (noun): the health of all the people in a country, city or community and their health issues; also the name of a government department - การสาธารณสุข
  • recommended: suggested; saying that something is very good or useful - เป็นที่แนะนำ
  • represent: to act, speak or be present officially for another person or people - เป็นตัวแทน
  • request: an act of asking for something in a formal or polite way - การขอร้อง
  • requirement: something that you must have or do in order to do or get something else - ข้อกำหนด, ข้อบังคับ
  • resources: things such as money, workers and equipment that can be used to help achieve something - ทรัพยากร
  • royal: a member of the family of a king and queen - บุคคลในราชวงศ์
  • scholarships: money given to a student to pay for the cost of education - ทุนการศึกษา
  • senior: with a high rank or position - อาวุโส
  • serve: to function as; to be used as - ใช้เป็น, ทำหน้าที่เป็น
  • shovel: to lift and move earth, stones, coal, snow, etc. with a shovel - ขุดด้วยเสียมหรือพลั่ว, ตักด้วยพลั่ว, แซะด้วยพลั่ว
  • status: social position - สถานะทางสังคม
  • suffer: to be badly affected by a very difficult or unpleasant situation - ประสบความลำบาก
  • suffer (from): to be badly affected by a disease, pain, sadness, a lack of something, etc - เป็นโรค, ประสบความทุกข์
  • tenure: the period of time during which someone has an important job - ช่วงระยะเวลาที่ดำรงตำแหน่ง
  • throne: a special chair used by a king or queen to sit on at ceremonies - ราชบัลลังก์
  • training (noun): teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม
  • transformation: a complete change in somebody/something - การเปลี่ยนรูป,การแปรรูป,การปฎิรูป,การเปลี่ยนสภาพ
  • ultimately: finally, after a series of things have happened - ท้ายที่สุด, ตอนสุดท้าย, ในที่สุด
  • university (noun): a school where students study for BA, MA, MS and PhD degrees and where research is done - มหาวิทยาลัย
  • win over: to convince; to make someone agree with you about the right thing to do -
  • work out (verb): solve problems - แก้ปัญหา
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