The Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health of Thailand

Prince Mahidol of Songkla had noted, while serving in the Royal Thai Navy, the serious need for improvement in the standards of medical practitioners and public health in Thailand. In undertaking such mission, Prince Mahidol decided to study public health and medicine himself. Prince Mahidol set in motion a whole range of activities in accordance with his conviction that human resources development at the national level was of utmost importance and his belief that improvement of public health constituted an essential factor in national development. During the first period of his residence at Harvard, Prince Mahidol negotiated and concluded, on behalf of the Royal Thai Government, an agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation on assistance for medical and nursing education in Thailand. One of his primary tasks was to lay a solid foundation for teaching basic sciences which Prince Mahidol pursued through all necessary measures. These included the provision of a considerable sum of his own money as scholarships for talented students to study abroad.

During his stay in Thailand after receiving his C.P.H. in 1921, Prince Mahidol was appointed Director-General of the University Department, Ministry of Education. In that capacity, he upgraded the teaching of biology, physics, and chemistry through curricula development, acquisition of up-to-date equipment, and construction of laboratories and classrooms. Prince Mahidol generously supplemented government budget with his own personal fund, as well as secured donations from members of the Royal Family. But it was in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee to establish the Siriraj School of Medicine that Prince Mahidol demonstrated his capability and farsightedness as an educational planner, as well as his efficiency as an institutional builder.

After he returned home with his well-earned M.D. in 1928, Prince Mahidol taught preventive and social medicine to final year medical students at Siriraj Medical School and then worked as a resident doctor at McCormick Hospital in Chiang Mai and performed operations alongside Dr. E.C. Cord, Director of the hospital. As ever, Prince Mahidol did much more than was required in attending his patients, taking care of needy patients at all hours of the day and night, and even, according to records, donating his own blood for them.

Prince Mahidol’s initiatives and efforts produced a most remarkable and lasting impact on the advancement of modern medicine and public health in Thailand such that he was subsequently honoured with the title of “Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health of Thailand”