Faculty, PhD student represent School at Thailand health care conference

Trip strengthen ties with Chiang Mai University, puts UAB faculty, doctoral education on global stage
By Jimmy Creed

For University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) student Aoyjai Prapanjaroensin, BSN, RN, a recent trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for an international health care conference not only gave her an international platform for her scholarly work, it also was a chance to share her experiences at the School and UAB as a whole with nursing students and others from her homeland.

Prapanjaroensin, from Ratchaburi, Thailand, represented the School along with Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor Lori Loan, PhD, RN, FAAN, Donna Brown Banton Endowed Professor Pat Patrician, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Professor and Acute, Chronic & Continuing Care Department Chair Maria Shirey, PhD, MBA, MS, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FACHE, FAAN.Thailand trip 2016 1HRFrom left to right, PhD student Aoyjai Prapanjaroesin, Dr. Yothaka Pakapomg, Dean Doreen Harper, Dr. Ek-uma Imkome, Dr. Lori Loan and Dr. Pat Patrician pause for a photo during a recent visit made to Thailand by the UAB School of Nursing contingent. While visiting her homeland for the first time in three years, Prapanjaroesin was able to see many family members and friends, including Pakapomg, a UAB School of Nursing alum, and Imkome, both of whom are faculty at Thammasart University where Prapanjaroesin was an undergraduate.

The event, which was co-sponsored by the School, “Optimizing Healthcare Quality: Teamwork in Education, Research, and Practice,” was organized by Wipada Kunaviktikul, RN, PhD, FAAN, Faculty of Nursing Dean at Chiang Mai University, who earned her PhD from the School in 1994. They were joined at the conference by more than a dozen UAB School of Nursing alumni living and working in Thailand.

Harper and Patrician participated as panelists at two different symposiums and Patrician, Shirey and Loan presented a workshop entitled “Partnerships to Optimize Practice, Education and Research.” The group also took part in developing the Chiang Mai Declaration, setting forth the need for health care for everyone.

It served to strengthen a long-standing partnership between the School and Chiang Mai University, the relationship with Kunaviktikul and the ties to UAB School of Nursing alumni in that part of the world.

“Seeing the highly professional event Chiang Mai University coordinated and the high regard Dean Wipada has from her global community affirms how we cultivate transformational leaders who are having an impact across the globe,” Shirey said. “As our alum, Dean Wipada certainly made us proud. We also had the opportunity to connect with other proud UAB School of Nursing alumni from Thailand and throughout the world. It was clear to me that the School has had a memorable impact on these alums and our long relationship with Chiang Mai University has impacted us greatly as well.”

“This conference, our attendance and co-sponsorship was part of the UAB School of Nursing’s long-standing friendship and partnership with Chiang Mai University,” Harper said. “Our collaboration goes back more than 20 years and was spearheaded by then-UAB President Dr. Scotty McCallum and former School of Nursing Dean Dr. Rachel Booth. We as a school have sustained it over time, not only with the students who have come here to study and then return to Thailand, but also with the faculty who have come to us from Chiang Mai and other universities in Thailand, including one of our current instructors, Dr. Mantana Damrongsak. We are grateful for our strong partnership with Chiang Mai and look forward to our future collaborations.”

The conference also was a time for Prapanjaroensin to shine on a global stage, featuring her research and mentoring experiences as a UAB PhD student.  

“It was a great honor for me to be invited to participate in the conference,” Prapanjaroensin said. “It was also a great honor for me to have a chance to accompany Dean Harper and my professors and mentors at Chiang Mai and in Thailand.”

At the conference, Prapanjaroensin spoke as part of a panel at a Doctoral Student Lunch Symposium on the topic “Creating a Collaborative PhD Student Network to Strengthen the Nursing Profession.” She also engaged students from around the world who wanted to know more about the School, UAB and life in America as an international student.

“She did a fabulous job, and there were a lot of students who were interested in what she had to say, what she was working on and in the process of getting a PhD so far from home,” Patrician said. “She represented us very well, and I am very proud of her.”

Members of the travelling party also noted the UAB name was well recognized by more than just its 15 or so alumni attending the conference.

“The UAB brand was definitely recognizable,” Loan said. “It was on your name badge, and people would see it and come up and say ‘You are from UAB.” They would want to talk to me just because I was representing UAB.

Thailand trip 2016 2Dean Doreen Harper shares a moment with Olivia Bahemuka, a 2014 graduate of the School's Doctor of Nursing Practice program and former UAB Hospital employee. Bahemuka is originally from Kampala, Uganda, and currently resides in Kigali, Rwanda. There she serves as a Visiting Clinical Instructor/Nurse Educator for the Rwanda Ministry of Health-Human Resources as part of the Health for Rwanda Program. “I was blessed to be selected as one who got to go speak and represent UAB. I am really thankful for that.”

Prior to departing for the conference, Prapanjaroensin was asked to be the representative from Thailand to the INTO UAB Center, which supports UAB’s commitment to globalization. As such, she will speak with prospective Thai students in any field who are considering attending UAB. The prospective students can contact Prapanjaroensin to gain insight into her overall experience as an international student at UAB.

She acted as just such an ambassador in Chiang Mai, and what she stressed most to those she talked with was opportunity.

“I said that in the U.S. a PhD student has a lot of opportunity to get involved in a project a professor is working on,” Prapanjaroensin said. “I talked about the project I am working on with Dr. Patrician about shift-working nurses and the effects of circadian misalignment. I told them about the opportunities here to work side by side with a mentor and things like that.”

There were other, more practical things, the students also wanted to know from her firsthand.

“They wanted to know how hard it is for international students to go abroad and study and exactly what kind of experience they might have,” Prapanjaroensin said. “They asked me about getting homesick, about the language differences and how I cope with those. I told them it was hard, but they can do it just like me. I hope because of this we have more Thai students come to UAB.”

The faculty members she accompanied on the trip believe her message definitely had an impact.

“By having Aoyjai with us to share the experiences of her educational journey and outcomes here at UAB, we were able to convey a powerful message of educational and impactful possibilities for others,” Shirey said.

For more information about the School's PhD Program, click here.
Read 9968 times Last modified on January 13, 2020

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