INMED Academic

Mae Fah Luang
University Medical Center



Mae Fah Luang Medical Center is a teaching hospital affiliated with Mae Fah Luang University in located in the city of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. This region is ethnically diverse and home to people of Thai, Hmong, Chinese, Lao, Burmese, Akha, and Karen origins. Many are farmers and immigrants who suffer from respiratory afflictions, as well tropical diseases including dengue fever, leptospirosis, and typhoid fever.

A variety of healthcare experiences are available. Most INMED learners opt for two weeks of primary care plus two weeks of a specialty experience in internal medicine, pediatrics, ophthalmology, orthopedics, anesthesia, or plastic surgery. Experience in traditional medicine may be available, along with opportunities to participate in home visits and mobile-clinic excursions to care for patients in more rural areas.


Chiang Rai is a city of one million people located in northern Thailand and close to neighboring countries Laos and Myanmar. Chiang Rai is home to a diverse population, including various ethnic groups such as Thai/Northern Thai, Lahu, Hmong, Chinese, Lao, Burmese, Akha, Karen, and more. Many Burmese refugees are flowing into Chiang Rai at this time because of the ongoing conflict in Myanmar. Agriculture is the primary source of income for Chiang Rai residents. Additionally, tourism and trade also contribute greatly to the region’s economy. Electricity and clean water are accessible to most inhabitants of Northern Thailand.

The patient community in Chiang Rai is diverse in age, occupation, and cultural practice. Most patients presenting to the outpatient clinic are middle aged and come for follow-ups on chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, gout, dyslipidemia. These are predominately poorer people, including Thai farmers, as well as immigrants from Myanmar and Laos. Respiratory diseases, including COPD and lung cancers, are particularly common and associated with the severe air pollution that occurs from biomass burning. Tropical diseases also remain significant common. Tuberculosis, dengue fever, leptospirosis, necrotizing fasciitis, and typhoid fever are among the most frequently seen in Chiang Rai and northern Thailand.

Due to separate culture, education, and work opportunities, hill tribe people are among the poorest in Chiang Rai. They have poor access to healthcare because of their remote living areas in the mountains and thus, come to the hospital infrequently.

Thailand has a universal health care coverage system, and medical fees are covered for citizens – though some more expensive prescription medications are not covered. Non-citizens can pay for a healthcare card that offers similar coverage, but illegal immigrants are not covered and often cannot afford healthcare. Despite having universal healthcare, many patients cannot afford transportation to the hospital and simply are too disabled to travel.

Become more familiar with Thailand’s culture, history and economy by reviewing the Wikipedia Thailand Profile. Rich resources for Angola health information include the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME Thailand Country Profile and the World Health Organization’s Humanitarian Data Exchange for Thailand.

Thai is the most commonly spoken language in Chiang Rai. Medical personnel and most healthcare staff speak English. Medical education at Mae Fah Luang University is also conducted in English. Hill tribe and most other minority people still maintain their own languages and traditions. Interpretation to English is readily available.

Mae Fah Luang Medical Center is a large hospital with multiple specialties and full-fledged ICU, operating rooms, labor and delivery, pediatric outpatient care, cancer care, physical therapy, labs, and imaging. The hospital also has home visit teams and associated community health clinics that operate weekly. However, availability for consultation with some sub specialists is limited.

Thailand has a highly developed public health service that includes district hospitals with associated health centers. Health teams are also regularly dispatched to Village communities, providing prenatal care, well childcare, and vaccinations.

Supervision is provided by Dr. John Gibson and Dr. Jonathan Lazarini. Dr. Gibson is an INMED faculty physician who is also associated with University of North Texas. Dr. Gibson speaks Thai fluently and previously lived in Thailand for 20 years. Dr. Lazarini’s experience includes medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and family medicine residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Thai faculty are also involved on an ad hoc basis to provide supervision for Family Medicine, as well as several other specialty options for the visiting students.  MFU also has a robust intern training program that provides additional opportunities for the visiting INMED students to interact with Thai physicians in training.  At this time, no formal residency programs have been approved but a Family Medicine Residency program is in the planning stages.

Wi-Fi internet is available throughout the student center and medical center.  SIM cards for “unlocked” cell phones are available and relatively inexpensive and provide highly reliable internet services on the go. Rechargeable SIM cards are easily obtained at all the airports in Thailand as well as the numerous 7-11 stores all over Thailand.  Thai people use the LINE app for communication and all students should download this app on their cell phone.  The medical center and Dr Gibson will use this app for most communication before arrival and after arrival as well.  The app allows for texting, audio and video chats as well as document transmission.  It is preferred to EMAIL as a communication mode in Thailand.

INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to financially support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they provide opportunity for INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.

Travel and Logistics

Travelers will fly into CEI Chang Ri International Airport. Mae Fah Luang University Medical Center is located about 10km from the airport.

For current information please visit the Thai embassy website for information appropriate for one’s home nationality. United States citizens can obtain current visa information from the website of the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, DC.

4-week Visa on arrival is available for Americans and many other nationalities for tourists and visitors (who are not permitted to work) INMED learners should list the Bridge Student Center near the entrance to Mae Fah Luang University.  The address is:  439/2  Moo 1, T. Thasud, Amphur Muang Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai 54100.

Travelers should consult with a personal physician before traveling. All routine vaccinations must be up to date, including COVID-19. Refer to the CDC travel website for the most up-to-date health information.

Travelers are advised to refer to the United States State Department website for the most up-to-date general travel information, and to regularly view current travel advisories.

A variety of healthcare experiences are available. Most INMED learners opt for two weeks of primary care, both inpatient and outpatient, plus two weeks of a specialty experience in internal medicine, pediatrics, ophthalmology, orthopedics, anesthesia, or plastic surgery. Experience in Thai Traditional Medicine and Chinese Traditional Medicine may also be available, along with opportunities to use ultrasound technology and osteopathic manipulation.

Learner duties typically included performing physical exams and ultrasound exams, reviewing patients’ medical charts, and providing recommendations to attendings. Learners also participate in didactics learning in the context of conferences and journal club, and occasionally participate in assisting in teaching medical students’ physical exams and patients’ encounter skills.

Learners may also enjoy valuable opportunities to participate in home visits with a multidisciplinary team consisting of a nurse, nutritionist, physical therapist, and social worker, providing medical care to patients with limited mobility in their own homes. Mobile-clinic- excursions to care for patients in more rural areas may also be available.

Housing options include student dorms, hotel on campus with breakfast, and housing at the student ministry center. The student ministry center: The Bridge, is located at entrance of university, with 3rd and 4th floor apartments with bathroom, shower, refrigerator, microwave, and hot plate. Grocery shopping is very close along with a choice of restaurants. Bank card is convenient for making purchases and accessing ATM cash. Thailand has a rideshare service called GRAB, similar to Uber, that is quite user friendly for both food delivery and local transportation. 

Slacks and sport shirt are most appropriate. Denim pants or jeans are not worn in clinic. For women, dresses are not required, and pants are acceptable. No scrubs are worn in the clinic but bring scrubs for the operating room and some village health excursions to remote areas of Thailand. Tobacco and alcohol use are not permitted, neither are any drugs except those requiring a prescription.

Weekends are free from hospital responsibilities. This region of Thailand is known as a prime area for tourism and has numerous attractions, including nature preserves with elephants and wildlife, border markets, numerous coffee shops and shopping areas and trips to Laos. Opportunities abound for participation in Christian ministry and church activities that are part of the work Dr Gibson and Dr Lazarini families.

Learners should bring copies of all healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. A carry-on bag should be packed that contains essentials items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Bring clothes appropriate for the weather. White coats and stethoscopes are required to be brought and scrub clothes for OB and OR are also good to bring as well.  Clothing is widely available in the market for small to regular sized folks.

Note: Not all INMED learners post a blog regarding their international service-learning. Only completed blogs are listed:

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