Their professional journeys to Bangkok Hospital.
By Tom McLean
Making our way to the VIP quarters of Bangkok Hospital’s Elite Room, the tranquil atmosphere of the International Hospital Building belied the extraordinary efforts of the healthcare providers working across its various facilities. The multitudes of experts fighting to save lives were hidden to us as we journeyed to meet two of the hospital’s most esteemed Thai-Indian health professionals, Dr. Sithichai Veerananchai and Surasak Sethi.
Greeting us warmly upon arrival, the two men exemplified diverse but equally important aspects of healthcare. Clinical pharmacist Surasak exuded a charming, unassuming attitude towards his crucial profession while Dr. Sithichai wowed us with his infectious enthusiasm. We were eager to learn their stories, as well as their professional take on the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Sithichai Veerananchai
Born in Bangkok, Dr. Sithichai benefitted from an international school education in the city before attending boarding school in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand from the age of 8 till 12 years old. Returning to Thailand for high school, Dr. Sithichai would go on to pursue both a medical and a law degree at Rangsit University, which he studied concurrently.
Eventually moving to the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University to continue his medical studies, Dr. Sithichai received his first practical experience in Ubon Ratchathani, where he absorbed the city’s culture in order to understand the nature of the tropical diseases local to the area. This was also where he initially gained first-hand emergency medical experience, inspiring his specialisation in the field.
After returning to Siriraj Hospital and training in emergency medicine for three years, Dr. Sithichai moved to Bangkok Hospital to continue his work, with 2021 marking his tenth year at the hospital.
What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?
I’ve always loved to study human beings and have been fascinated by the subject of Biology since I was a child. Medicine is something I’ve always been passionate about.
Could you describe how you grew into your role over time?
Life now is completely different to before I became a healthcare professional. When you become a doctor, your personal image changes. You become someone in your community within a position of respect and responsibility. And then, over time, you begin to internalise that image and become the person people expect of you. It’s a massive personal transformation.
What aspect of your work do you find the most rewarding?
Bringing someone back to their loved ones is the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever experienced. It makes everything worthwhile.
How do you deal with stressful situations?
Having worked in the emergency field for so long, stress doesn’t affect me as intensely anymore. As a physician, you have to constantly remain mindful and composed. You can’t let anything impact your ability to make rational decisions.
Did you anticipate that Thailand’s second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic would be worse than the first?
Because of the way the virus mutates, we knew that the second wave was going to hit harder than the first. As a country, we still haven’t recovered economicallysince the first wave, which also makes things more difficult. On the other hand, we have a far better understanding of the virus than before. Acceptance is the key in dealing with a situation like this.
If someone suspects they have COVID-19, what are the immediate steps they should take?
They should self-isolate straight away and seek medical attention. You can receive an initial consultation over the phone. Drive-through testing is also available, which greatly reduces the risk of exposure.
A Bangkok native, Surasak grew up in the city, receiving his formative education in predominantly Thai institutions. His desire to become a healthcare professional came from wanting to have the first- hand knowledge and experience to care for loved ones. In pursuit of this goal, Surasak would go on to attend Rangsit University.
Initially striving to become a doctor, Surasak eventually decided to change directions and came away from university with a Pharmacy degree. His goal of working in a hospital never changed, however, and he concentrated on gaining a pharmacist position in an intensive care unit. Fortunately, he found that very role at Bangkok Hospital, where he has worked on the wards for the past six years.
What aspect of pharmacy work do you enjoy the most?
The greatest satisfaction I get is from the health and happiness of my patients. When a patient smiles and thanks me for everything I’ve done, I know I’ve done a good job.
Did the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic come as a surprise?
We predicted it would happen and how best to counter its negative effects on our work. We’ve prepared and evolved a lot since the first wave, so I would say it’s actually been easier to deal with than originally anticipated.
What do you do to help cope when times are difficult?
It’s important to relieve stress and care for your mental health. I like to read a lot. I also like to watch cartoons and movies. In the past, travel was a fantastic way of unwinding but that’s quite difficult at the moment, for obvious reasons.
How important would you say our immune systems are when it comes to combatting COVID-19?
Crucially important. The best thing everyone can do right now is try to strengthen their immune systems. It’s the first point of protection.
Are there any supplements you would recommend to help boost our immune systems?
Because COVID-19 is so new, we don’t have enough information to say that certain supplements are guaranteed to help ward off the virus. That said, there are claims that vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D can help reduce the risk of catching it. However, these claims aren’t fully verifiable yet. I advise people to becautiousregardinganythingtheyreadon the internet. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking anything.
What’s your opinion on the forthcoming vaccines?
Even after vaccination, people need to remain cautious and alert. The vaccine won’t prevent people from catching the virus. It will only minimise its effects. Until everything is back to normal, social distancing and hygiene procedures should be maintained.