By Ruth Gerson
Such is the case with Dr Donna Robinson, a now well-known Briton who had to overcome obstacles that would deter all but the most determined in order to be able to practice her profession in Thailand.
Not only did she have to learn the Thai language to be able to communicate with patients, she also had to master medical Thai terminology to be licensed to work here – and she succeeded!
Born and educated in Newcastle in northern England, Dr Donna trained as general practitioner, and holds a diploma in gynecology and occupational medicine, the latter focusing on maintaining health at the workplace.
Feeling that life was passing her by, at the age of 26 she looked eastward and went to work in New Zealand while getting higher medical qualifications. On her journey, she stopped for one night in Singapore, her first encounter with the Far East, and she liked it. “Asia is a pretty good place,” she thought.
When it was time for Dr Donna to leave New Zealand she did not rush back to the UK but rather sought out Asian destinations, landing a job in Hong Kong. Although she spent a mere six months there, it changed the course of her life, as it is where she met her husband – on a cross country run organized by the Hash House Harriers run, romantically enough, on the Chinese Moon Festival!
Married three years later, the couple began a new life here in Thailand when her husband Ian, an engineer by profession, landed a job in 1989 working on major infrastructure projects like the Expressway second phase and the BTS Skytrain. Dr Donna followed shortly afterwards, in early 1990.
Wanting to work, but being unable to do so without a Thai medical license, Dr Donna reached out to NGOs (non-government organizations). She joined Samakon ASIN, where she wrote proposals for financial help, at that time for HIV research.
Recalling that period, Dr Donna says that one must be patient to reach one’s goals. Her next employment was with UNICEF in the position of Project Officer, once again working with the hot issue of the day, HIV/ AIDS, writing reports on the work done.
But Dr Donna found this work unsatisfactory, “I knew I wanted more - to work with patients,” she says and understandably so, as she was trained as a doctor.
Getting the Thai medical license enabled Dr Donna to move more freely in the Thai medical community.
And so she began her newly revived career working for Kimberly Clark, a producer of medical supplies, as regional medical director to deal with expat employees in their factories throughout Asia.
Fortunately, her schedule allowed her to follow her true calling - that of tending the sick and she began working two mornings a week at Bumrungrad Hospital as general practitioner and internal medicine.
Finding this advice from a friend appealing, Dr Donna began looking at possibilities of setting up her own workplace, an ambition that came to pass in 2008 with setting up MedConsult Clinic. In the interim (2004-2008), she worked in occupational health, concerned with the well-being of employees in establishments such as the United Nations, Nestle and PCS.
Today, her clinic is located at the Racquet Club, Sukhumvit Soi 49. Now considerably bigger than when she first started, it occupies three rooms with a working staff of eight – three doctors, two nurses and managerial staff.
MedConsult is open seven days a week, and in addition to offering regular medical services, it is partnered with Khun Watchara Rimchaisit to provide an essential service of doctors who visit sick tourists in hotels, hostels and apartments, a facility that is called ‘Doctors on Call.’
Looking ahead, Dr Donna plans to remain in Thailand and work like Thai doctors who she says admiringly “would like to work forever” having made medicine and dedication to patients their life mission. This foreign doctor would like to do the same.
The Racquet Club, 3rd floor (Building 2)
Sukhumvit Soi 49/9
Tel. 02-018-7855 Mobile 081-837-6381