Prince Mahidol Award Conference


I must say, I just returned from the most elaborate conference that I have ever attended. WHO and Health Metrics Network (along with the Royal Thai Government) hosted the Prince Mahidol Award Conference on Global Health Information.


I literally felt honored to be a part of the proceedings – surrounded by brilliant leaders in the field of health informatics. Plus, as an added bonus, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, often referred to as the “Princess of Information Technology” due to her interest and expertise in applying science for Thailand’s development, provided the opening remarks.


And now that I’ve been on this global health information systems conference circuit for a few years, it’s incredibly gratifying to see so many familiar faces and friends from all over the world – and to my pleasant surprise, I bumped into Chris Moyo, my Malawian counterpart from the Ministry of Health. I felt sheer joy as I greeted him with a big hug!

(Amy & Chris Moyo)

Relationship building is a critical component of any job, but even more so when trying to collaborate on complex health initiatives spanning across regions, countries, agencies, and diseases.

(Mark and Bill)

I’m hoping to build on my experiences on Health Information Systems (HIS) from my work in Malawi (as well as Texas) and to transfer that knowledge to Vietnam.

(Wat Arun)

From what I’ve gathered, there appears to be numerous HIS initiatives throughout the country, yet there doesn’t seem to be a coordinated effort or a strategic vision in place. I’m still too new to understand all the political nuances around health management information systems in-country – but I’m a quick learner.


The conference itself ran like a well-oiled machine! The first day included a site visit (7 site visits were planned – all equally as impressive) – but I selected the trip to Saraburi Regional Hospital, a 700-bed hospital located approximately 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok. Its Information Communication Technology (ICT) system was developed locally (literally, by one of its doctors) based on local demand.

(Suraburi Regional Hospital)

We were guided around four sections of the hospital in order to see their ICT system in action. First, the emergency room to see their referral system of hospitals; next, the medical registration room (Thailand is one of the few countries with unique patient identifiers); then the outpatient department – which is their surgery ward where they electronically identify necessary procedures for the medical examination room; and finally, the chemical therapy room, a specific IT system for cancer patients.


By in large, I was truly impressed! Granted, each system has its strength and weaknesses. However, the areas that interest me the most include how data and information flow from the facility to provincial and to national levels; and how to achieve interoperability across the various reporting systems.

(Hans Rosling (Director of the Gapminder Foundation) presented at the conference – if you’re not familiar with his work, he’s absolutely brilliant!)

Enterprise Architecture Dinner
(Enterprise Architecture Working Group)

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to attend a lovely dinner/working group on enterprise architecture – or in laymen’s terms, applying systematic methods to the design of health information systems’ infrastructure in order to link disparate systems (i.e., surveillance activities, electronic medical records, lab information systems, routine M&E, supply chain management systems, human resources, etc.) more effectively and efficiently.


Saraburi was an example of a rural hospital – again, after living in Malawi ‘rural’ has a totally different meaning! In fact, I’m constantly amazed by the rapid development in this part of the world. I backpacked throughout SE Asia sixteen years ago and Bangkok was a completely different city (or perhaps I never made it to this part of town considering my $5/day budget). Regardless, the population has probably doubled, if not tripled, since then.


After the conference closed on Saturday afternoon, several of us took in the sites of Bangkok, exploring the various Wats along the Chao Phraya river. First stop, Wat Pho – one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok and home to the famous, ‘Reclining Buddha’ – forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high, decorated with gold plating on his body and mother of pearl on his eyes and the soles of his feet.


Next, we took a boat across the river to Wat Arun – or “Temple of the Dawn” – that is notorious for its central prang (or tower), which is mostly comprised of decorated bits of seashells and porcelain from China. The views from its terraces were spectacular!


That night, a small group of us decided to check out the scene in Bangkok. After a lovely dinner based on the hotel’s recommendation, we walked the streets of Patpong – which turns out to be the gaudiest red-light district in Bangkok. What appeared to be a vibrant night market had a much darker, seedier side. Numerous people holding up signs for sex shows approached us. Despite my innate curiosity as to how some of these acts were performed, I refused to condone such practices. My heart instantly went out to these women – who were probably from rural villages in Burma and Laos who were lured into the city in hopes of earning money. How belittling to subject oneself to this level…it truly saddened me to no end.

This made me so depressed...who are these poor women that are subjected to this!

Despite the dark side of Bangkok, I am grateful to have attended the conference. I made numerous new connections and strengthened ties with old friends.

I’m now back in Hanoi, observing all the preparations for Tet.

Sending much love,

3 comments to Prince Mahidol Award Conference

  • Hi Amy,

    thanks for sharing these wonderful sightseeing experiences as you have discovered Bangkok. On you will find Worldwide selection of respected and professionally trained heart surgeons in Thailand who specialized in open heart surgery procedures and treatments.

    Best regards.


  • Hi Amy,

    Great photos and story. It was nice meeting you at the Forum. We were hoping to chat with you more about your experience at the Suraburi Regional Hospital. Can you send me an email when you have a chance.


    Kathryn Graczyk
    Technical Officer
    Health Metrics Network

  • sue

    Hi Amy
    I love the way you see the beauty in every place you go. You have the eye and the heart of a Saint. I believe that where others see as terrible and just shake their head, you look for the beauty in them or how you can make it better.

    You are a Blessing everywhere you go.

    Take care

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