Close-up of statue face at a temple or palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
In Bangkok, Thailand, by Xiquinho Silva.

 

By Addy Hatch

A formal agreement signed late last year between the WSU College of Nursing and Thailand’s oldest and most prestigious university began with the friendship of two doctoral students.

Dawn Doutrich met Jiraporn Kespichayawattana while pursuing her PhD at Oregon Health and Sciences University in the 1990s. Doutrich went on to become Associate Director of the WSU College of Nursing in Vancouver, while her friend is now dean of research at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Kespichayawattana visited Doutrich last summer and raised the possibility of a formal collaboration between the two programs. College of Nursing Dean Joyce Griffin-Sobel supported the idea, and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two schools in late November.

Three women sitting behind a table, the one on the right giving a thumbs-up sign.
Dr. Dawn Doutrich, center, with faculty members from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

“Chulalongkorn is the No. 1 school in Thailand,” Doutrich said. “It’s really well-known in Southeast Asia, and is a school where many other countries send their students.” The university has 23 colleges, most of which are called faculties, and its Faculty of Nursing offers only graduate education. Doutrich said it has strong programs in community-based research, palliative care, gerontology and population policy.

The memorandum of understanding envisions possible collaborations between the WSU College of Nursing and Chulalongkorn in the form of joint research projects, and faculty or student exchanges. Doutrich, who retired from the WSU College of Nursing on Dec. 31, spent six weeks in Thailand as a visiting faculty member earlier this year. She taught PhD classes, and worked with a research team on a death-acceptance scale based on Buddhist teachings and beliefs. Researchers are planning a multi-country trial of the scale within the next two years. 

“I visited a Buddhist temple in the rural northeast dedicated to the use of complementary medical treatment for palliative care patients,” Doutrich said. As a visiting professor, the university paid her way to Thailand and her living expenses while she was there. “I was totally taken care of; it was just really great,” she said.

Doutrich believes there are good opportunities for WSU College of Nursing faculty, post-docs or even groups of undergraduate students to work with people at Chulalongkorn University. Possible areas of exploration could be Thailand’s system of universal health care, which was introduced in 2002; medical tourism, which is booming there; or gerontology, an issue facing countries with aging populations worldwide, she suggested.

Doutrich, who has worked in and studied intersections between health and culture throughout her career, said Bangkok was much changed from when she’d last visited two decades ago. The air and waterways were cleaner, and a nationwide focus on women’s education has improved quality of life for families.

“It was so different when I went this time than when I had been there before,” Doutrich said. “It’s really interesting to see how they used evidence and wisdom and managed to move them into sustainable policy.”