Medical students from the University of New England will soon have the opportunity to study and gain professional experience in rural Thailand, and vice versa, under an agreement reached between UNE and Naresuan University last week.
The universities have agreed to begin a student exchange program as early as next year, as well as to jointly fund several full scholarships for Thai students to study medicine at UNE. Under the agreement, two Thai students will enrol in UNE’s Bachelor of Medicine program in 2010 and a further two in 2012.
Also discussed was a dual-degree postgraduate program in health management to be offered at the Naresuan campus in Bangkok. On completion of the proposed 2-year Master of International Health Management course — to be taught jointly by UNE and Naresuan staff — graduates may receive two degrees, one from each university.
Professor Victor Minichiello, PVC Dean of the Faculty of the Professions at UNE, said the agreement offered numerous benefits both for the universities and the communities they serviced.
“This is a very exciting development, as it will probably result in our first cohort of international medical students coming on campus to study medicine and contribute to the academic and cultural diversity of our medical program,” Prof Minichiello said.
“Both the Thai and Australian governments have demonstrated their commitment to improving rural health by establishing medical schools at regionally-based institutions like UNE and Naresuan,” he said. “These programs are expected to address the rural medical labour force so critical for healthy and prosperous rural communities.
“What is so exciting about the discussions that took place here at UNE is that these are two rural universities with a passionate commitment to solving rural health issues.”
Associate Professor Dr. Mondhon Sanguansermsri, President of Naresuan University, said the results of the meeting would have a broad-reaching positive impact on rural health in Thailand and Australia.
“The Master of International Health Management will assist Thai health staff in managing all aspects of their work,” he said. “It will have benefits for those working in private and public health, government, family nursing, health science and dentistry, not only for the health workers, but also for their patients.”
The scholarships and student exchanges, he said, would “strengthen the collaboration between our two universities, and allow our students to get medical experience abroad, especially in a rural area”.