USF, Thai students learn from each other

 Parkkapus Shoowit shadows Dr. Philip Stromquist.

          As a Thai medical student in the Klasko International Exchange Program, Parkkapus Shoowit is getting to see high-tech invasive procedures, such as cardiac catheterizations and stent placement, which he wouldn’t get to see as easily back home.

            “Obviously, the U.S. is one of the world’s leaders in the medical field,” Shoowit said as he went on rounds with Dr. Philip Stromquist, USF assistant professor of cardiology. “It’s good to come see how things work. It’s a great opportunity for me.”

             But seeing the high-tech toys isn’t the important part, Dr. Stromquist said.

            “We won’t always have the stents, but we will have the relationships that are formed,” Dr. Stromquist said. “The technology will change, but the relationships will grow.”

            Dr. Stromquist himself trained with doctors in Europe 30 years ago. He says he will still reach out to those mentors today if he has a question that matches their particular expertise.

             Shoowit was one of five Thai medical students who spent several weeks training with USF doctors this spring as part of USF Health’s extensive Stephen Klasko Observership Program. Through this program, medical students come to USF for two weeks to one month to round with USF faculty and learn how to diagnose and treat patients. USF medical students also have the opportunity to travel to the partner institutions for the same experience. Two fourth-year medical students from USF visited Thailand as well.

            Since the program began in January 2008, more than 50 students from South Korea, Thailand, India, Germany, and Panama have successfully completed the training. The program was created from the strong collaborative agreements the College of Medicine has forged with institutions worldwide. Through the close working relationships with these institutions, USF Medicine International has created unique learning opportunities for students and faculty from USF and abroad.

           “These agreements are strengthening USF Health’s reputation around the world,” said Dr. John Sinnott, associate dean of USF Medicine International and director of the Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine. Dr. Sinnott, who also is the James A. Cullison Professor of Medicine, has visited with partners in China and Colombia in the past year to further cement the collaborations.

           “In five years, we’ve gone from one modest affiliation to several robust interactive affiliations,” Dr. Sinnott said. “We’re acknowledged as the #1 school in Florida for international medicine.”

           Those affiliations provide a learning experience for both USF students and faculty and for international students who visit here, said Dr. Charurut Somboonwit, USF associate professor in the Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine.


  Dr. Charurut Somboonwit says Thai and American students can learn from cultural differences in medical education.

       “The way we practice medicine is different,” Dr. Somboonwit said of Thailand as she discussed the most recent exchange. “The patients and the culture are different. The Thai students who come here broaden their thought process and observe how American medicine works.”

             Thai student Pavinee Ahuja has already seen differences in how medicine is taught in the two countries, she said as she did rounds one recent morning in a pediatrics unit at Tampa General Hospital.

          “You get to participate a lot,” Ahuja said. “They ask questions to make you think more.”

           That’s the kind of comment Dr. Somboonwit hears a lot from Thai students.

          “In Thailand, you are supposed to be quiet, listen, and give respect to seniority,” she said. “But here we treat the students at the same level. Their asking questions makes it more interactive. It’s valuable to be in a different medical system.”

            Thai students have their own advantages as well, she said.

            “Thai students are very strong in physical diagnoses,” Dr. Somboonwit said. “So I’d like to have them apply those skills in a Western setting.”

            Ultimately, it’s a learning experience for everyone, said Dr. Lisa Rodriguez, the USF assistant professor in pediatrics whom Ahuja was doing rounds with.


Student Pavinee Ahuja does pediatric rounds with Dr. Lisa Rodriguez.

          “I hope that all of us – the Thai students, as well as USF faculty and our student residents – get a broader appreciation for medicine around the world,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “That we learn about our differences as well as how alike medicine is in our different countries.”

For more information about the international activities of the USF College of Medicine, please visit

 — Story by Lisa Greene, Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications

Institutions which have collaborative agreements with the USF College of Medicine:

• Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
• La Universidad CES, Medellin, Colombia
• Instituto do Coracao INCOR, San Paulo, Brazil
• Gansu Provincial Health Department, Gansu Province, China
• Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China
• Escuala de Medicina de la Universidad Nacional Pedro Hernandez (UNPHU), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
• Dr. Salvador B. Gautier Hospital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
• Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
• Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt
• Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, Chennai, India
• Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), Government of Maharashtra, India
• Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), Mysore, India
• Kripa Foundation, Vasai, India
• Sterling Hospital, Gujarat, India
• Sir Sayajirao General Hospital, Gujarat, India
• Indu Health Research Foundation, Gujarat, India
• University of Groningen, Netherlands
• Universidad de Panama, Panama City, Panama
• Universidad Latina de Panama, Panama City, Panama
• Srinakharinwirot University (SWU), Bangkok, Thailand
• Universidad de Carabobo, Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela

Institutions which have medical student exchange agreements with the College of Medicine:

• Srinakharinwirot University, Nakorn Nayok, Thailand
• Yeungnam Medical Center, Yeungnam University, Daegu, S. Korea
• Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
• Universidad de Panama, Panama City, Panama
• Universidad Latina de Panama, Panama City, Panama