Doctor From Myanmar Wants To Boost Health Care At Home

When Aung Aung was a child, he would make believe he was a doctor.

He eventually made the role play a reality, graduating from medical school in Yangon, the former capital of his home country of Myanmar, in 2008. Soon he discovered there were challenges he never imagined.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian nation, pushing a 12-foot tidal surge through the Ayeyarwaddy Delta and Yangon region. More than 100,000 people died. Aung joined Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) as a first responder, providing medical care to the survivors.

Aung worked with the non-governmental agency for eight years. He treated patients with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases; managed clinics positioned within conflicts between armed ethnic groups, responded to other natural disasters and provided humanitarian aid for the influx of refugees who arrived by boat along the country’s western coast.

“I began to feel like treating a patient was helping only one or two people,” Aung said. “I thought if we could have a better public health strategy, then we could help more people.”

Aung was accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Program, which will support his MPH studies here.

“I simply did not see a lot of research being done in Myanmar for the most effective treatment and prevention strategies,” Aung said.

Aung said his goal is to initiate a baseline health survey in Myanmar and develop ongoing analysis of basic epidemiological trends in the remote and poorer areas of the country.

“We need more data,” he said. “We don’t even know what the health problems are. How do we respond if something happens? We can’t just look at research articles from other countries, which don’t necessarily apply to the people of Myanmar.”