My Thailand Reflection

Hilman in ThilandAndrew Hillman
MAPS Chapter President
Queens College Class of 2010

Andrew Hillman is an ambitious and passionate MAPS members from Region IX.  He currently serves as president of the MAPS Chapter at Queen’s College.  This summer he was afforded the opportunity to journey to Thailand and amassed a new perspective on the world and his position within it. As an aspiring physician of color, Andrew recognizes the need for cultural competency and his trip to Thailand allowed him to work towards addressing that need.

The Multi-interdisplinary International Research Training (MIRT) program has provided me with the chance to immerse myself in one of the world’s most distinctive cultures.  Thailand, the land of the Thai people, is a country that is tailor-made for me. The demeanor of its inhabitants is one of pride, charm and good will towards others. This is a philosophy that all people and all cultures should emulate. Over my two-month stay in Thailand, I witnessed how diversity within a group of people can expand one’s thought processes about science and medicine.  I say this whole-heartedly, because that individual is none other than myself.

As expected, my research experience has been very challenging.   I was thoroughly exposed to the fundamentals epidemiology as we investigated the “Association of C – Reactive protein and Metabolic Syndrome among Thai Adults”.  Dr. Williams and Dr. Vitool took time to stress the importance of learning the building blocks of the research process.  They challenged me to think about tough public health issues in a critical, methodical and meticulous manner.  I currently find myself making great strides in research with the use of tools my research mentors provided me.  When it comes to the scientific method, I now have a new perspective that promotes a skepticism and inclusion of all factors that can affect a research outcome.  In any research project that I will now participate in, I will no doubtly use these principles in the analysis of data, critiquing of literature and writing of journal articles.

During my two-month stay in Thailand, I fostered new and special relationships with my research mentors, my host family, my Thai language teacher, Khruu Nareboon, and the staff and faculty at Chulalongkorn University.  From day one, I was what I like to call, “culturally spoiled.”  I was ushered around all of Bangkok – to dinners, museums, temples and parks, in an attempt to expose me to all that Thailand offers.

For me, the ability to communicate with others is what makes the transfer of ideals, experiences and goals possible.  One such example is my experience in my Thai language class where I found myself on a regular basis in conversation with a native who spoke as little English as I spoke Thai. It is remarkable how one can understand another individual by ones genuine interest in relating to another individual. The appreciation shown to me when I “spoke” Thai, and I use this term very lightly, was striking.

This experience has changed me exponentially, as it has developed my cultural exposure and expanded my academic foundation.  First, I was taught epidemiology from two of the best researchers I have ever met.  Secondly, separation from my culture, people and geography forced me to understand myself on a spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical level.  I now consider myself someone with substance, life experience and a more comprehensive sense of cultural competency.

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