Dr. Nick Walters Interview

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

Today we are speaking with Dr. Nick Walters, B.S., M.D. (USA), DTM&H (London), FAAFP, ABFP (Diplomate). He is one of the world’s leading experts in family medicine, tropical and preventative medicine. He works at Bangkok Adventist or Mission Hospital, a non-profit medical facility here In Bangkok. Dr. Walters is also one of the editors of the SEAMEO SE Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health (SEATROPH). The magazine is published by the SEAMEO Regional Tropical Medicine and Public Health Network (SEAMEO TROPMED Network). One annual volume comprises of six bi-monthly issues (January, March, May, July, September, and November). 

When did you first come here to Thailand?

I first came to Thailand in December 2002.

What has changed here the most?

The cost of things has gone up but as is present everywhere in the world, Thailand has become more digitally connected and so many people seem to have a cellphone to access social media.

What has changed here the least?

People still like to go out with families or friends to eat together.

Can you tell us about your job at Mission Hospital?

I am a medical doctor at Mission Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. I am also an editor of a medical journal published by SEAMEO (SE Asian Ministers of Education Organisation) Regional Tropical Medicine and Public Health Network (TROPMED), called the SE Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health.

Where do you like to go when you are off work?

I like to go out to eat dinner with my wife. We try to have a date night once a week. Being a doctor keeps me out of the house for many hours each week, so I do not mind being at home when I am off work; in fact I enjoy it. There is always something that needs to be done in the house and if my wife and I are both doing it together, it is a joy. Another thing we do that I really enjoy is having free medical clinics for poor people in various parts of Thailand. Mission Hospital is under the Christian Medical Foundation, so we do free clinics in various parts of Thailand from as far South as Songkhla, as far North as Chiang Mai. From Tak in the West to Nan in the East. We usually go into villages where there is a need and provide medical care. This allows me an interaction with people that most visitors to Thailand would not see and it is very fulfilling.

What are your favourite places to eat?

Any place vegetarian.

Can you tell us about your family?

I am married and we have two children. My oldest son just finished dentistry in California last year and works as a dentist there. My youngest son is in medical school in California. My wife is here with me in Thailand.

What do you do for fun?

Redecorating around the house little by little and am an avid reader of history.

What advice do you have for any expatriate who wants to move to Thailand and live here?

Learn the language. Do not wait until you can speak Thai perfectly before trying to speak Thai, because it will never happen. Thai people are very forgiving of us foreigners when we try to speak Thai. Mix with Thai people. Enjoy the interaction.

You are an American medical doctor with a Thai medical licence here in Thailand. That is completely unheard of, it is extremely rare. Can you please tell us more about how you managed to do that?  

I came to Thailand and went to a formal language school to learn Thai. I did this for 9 months, 20 hours a week, 4 hours each morning, 5 days a week, in a language school. I then volunteered in the afternoons at the Mahidol University Hospital for Tropical Diseases immersing myself in the medical language. I then studied medical Thai for another 9 months with a tutor and continued to volunteer at the hospital. After this 18 month period I took my medical boards in the Thai language and passed all 3 parts on the first time in what I consider a miracle from God. The effort was worth it because living in Thailand is much smoother if a person can understand Thai. I do not use a translator at work, and I see both Thai and foreign patients for general medicine as well as tropical diseases, for which I also have a specialty.

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