Hello, my name is Royce Tsukayama and I am a first-year MPH student in the Infectious Disease and Vaccinology program at Cal. In May, I will be flying to Thailand, where I will be interning with the Thai Ministry of Public Health for three months. I am writing this blog about a month and a half prior to my departure.
My project will primarily take place at the Ministry of Public Health in Nonthaburi, a city just north of Bangkok. My contacts at the MOPH have graciously arranged an apartment for me, which is conveniently walking distance from work. While at the MOPH, I hope to gain an understanding of how Thailand confronts its unique health challenges. Thailand is viewed as one of the leading influences within Southeast Asia, and it will be a great opportunity to see how Thailand addresses health and diseases beyond its borders as well.
My project also involves me traveling to the province of Sisaket, in the Northeast region of Thailand. This region, known as Isaan, is largely rural, and has a diversity of cultural influences including Lao, Khmer, and other ethnic groups. I will be in the Khun Harn District where I will visit swine farms to collect pig feces. These samples will be sent in to test for antibiotic resistant E. coli. I have not been to Isaan before, and I am excited to see a different part of the country, develop a deeper understanding of the culture, and gorge myself in the local Isaan food.
I will be in Thailand during the heart of the rainy season, so it will be hot and humid. I will definitely miss the Mediterranean climate of Berkeley, and will be scavenging for air-con. I plan to block out chunks of time to take refuge indoors anyways, as I will be deep into the application and essay-writing process for medical school. However, this will not prevent me from exploring unfamiliar areas, discovering new smells, and blessing my taste buds with wonderful Thai food. Whether it is the diverse shapes and colors of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables or the simmering aromas originating from a food cart, I am looking forward to each and every meal. As an infectious disease student and a self-proclaimed street food advocate, I face a dilemma and will have to make compromises between what my heart tells me to eat versus what my brain tells me is safe to eat.
Before I depart, I would like to point out that I have been fortunate to receive a lot of support. I am lucky that a great university like Cal offers a beginning Thai language course, which I have been able to audit. My ajarn (professor) has been extremely gracious and my fellow nak suk sa (classmates) have made it fun to learn a difficult language. One of the former CGPH fellows (Sam) who interned with the MOPH last year, has shared his experiences with me and provided me with the advice to stay flexible and open-minded throughout. The CGPH has done a great job preparing its fellows to ensure that we all have successful internships. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Lee Riley for making this experience possible for me.