Stephanie Aldrin, MD's International Elective Experience

As part of an international elective earlier in 2020, Stephanie Aldrin, MD, PGY3 at St. Joseph's Family Medicine Residency Program, traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The following is Dr. Aldrin's description of her experience.


While in Chiang Mai, we rotated through the department of family medicine in their outpatient clinic and on their palliative care service. We also went with the Thai family medicine residents to home visits. Right before we arrived, they changed the department around due to COVID-19, so they had adapted a pediatric clinic into the family medicine clinic. The old family medicine clinic became a flu-like illness triage center, and patients with upper respiratory symptoms were sent to different places based on their risk of possibly having COVID-19. On the palliative care service we saw a number of patients with cholangiocarcinoma, which is much more common in Thailand due in part to the prevalence of liver flukes that lead to it. Advanced directives in Thailand have more details regarding end of life and interventions people would like done in an attempt to save their lives.

We also spent time with the Department of Community Medicine, which is a separate department at Chiang Mai University. We went out to education days with large groups of various workers, such as firefighters and park rangers. During these events the doctors would give presentations on how to prevent diseases, such as COVID-19 or chronic lung disease for the firefighters. After the presentations everyone had their vitals (blood pressure, temperature) screened.

In light of the current pandemic, my biggest takeaway is seeing the cultural values that lead to better containment of a disease. Everywhere we went, we had our temperature checked and it was normal to wear a mask everywhere. In fact, one of the family medicine residents brought Chee Lor, MD, and I masks because we didn't have our own.

During one of our weekend trips, the bus we were on was pulled over and everyone had their temperature checked before entering the town. Even something as simple as going to a bar meant that we had our temperature checked. We know at this point that COVID-19 is spread even when people are not showing any symptoms, but the small steps also contributed to the larger containment of the pandemic. While there I didn't see the same pushback from the general American public on wearing masks and being screened.

Learn more about St. Joseph's residency program and international elective opportunities in the future by checking out the program online.