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Royal Travels in Thailand

Hosted by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a 29-member entourage from the School crisscrossed Thailand for 10 days in January, gaining a firsthand perspective of public health research in the field. The group of nine Health Advisory Board members, six University trustees, friends of the School, and spouses visited family planning, AIDS research, and economic development projects.

Trip participants Jill Sommer, wife of Dean Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS ’73, and Thomas D. McCann, Health Advisory Board member, share their impressions below. 


Jill Sommer 

Sawat dii kah!” (Hello! in Thai.) From the moment we arrived in beautiful Thailand, Royal Asian hospitality flowed to the honored guests from the School.

HRH Princess Sirindhorn (pictured at right with Dean Alfred Sommer) expressed a desire to tour the Chiang Mai research facility with us and extended a generous invitation to visit multiple royal projects throughout the country. 

The tour went “royal,” and Thai television cameras followed. (Al urged members to wear their Bloomberg hats!) Our agenda was full and fascinating: a border project in Prao where children of ethnic minorities receive formal education; the King’s Royal Project (Doi Ang Khang) where ethnic minorities learn to grow highland crops instead of poppies; and an HIV/AIDS research project in Chiang Mai. 


Thomas D. McCann 

The Thai people demonstrated a warmth and openness that made us all feel welcome.  However, in the northern part of the country, great needs remain in terms of health care, economic development, and education. There, School faculty are focusing their efforts, undertaking programs that combat drug dependency and AIDS.

Princess Sirindhorn proved to be highly energetic and approachable as she led us on a whirlwind tour of projects that the royal family has initiated to help its northern residents develop a new agricultural and handicraft-based economy to replace the now-forbidden opium trade.

The Princess treated us to an unforgettable elephant ride that featured nearly three dozen elephants led by the Princess past throngs of adoring and applauding citizens.  (We assumed the applause was for the Princess, although Al and Jill Sommer were right behind her!)