International delegations such as ours can encounter scheduling opportunities that require a willingness and ability to be flexible. Fortunately, on their last day in Thailand, many of our delegation members were able to accommodate an additional meeting with colleagues at Chulalongkorn University.
Our initial visit to Chulalongkorn during this trip took place on Monday and focused primarily on public health. This second visit dramatically expanded the scope of the conversation to include engineering, informatics, and science.
As the photo above shows, we were met by a great many colleagues from Chula, including representatives from the departments of chemistry, geology, environmental science, materials science, and mathematics and computer science.
With common interests in many areas such as forensic science and analytical chemistry, geology and environmental science, battery and fuel cell development, and nanotechnology, in addition to our longstanding relationship in dentistry, we have a great many opportunities to enhance our relationship with Chula and look forward to continuing this important conversation.
The connection between the School of Dentistry and Chulalongkorn deserves special recognition. Dr. Thanpuying Petchara Techakampuch graduated from the School of Dentistry in 1958. She went on to an illustrious career ultimately serving as the late King Rama IX’s dentist as well as the Dean of Dentistry at Chulalongkorn. Thanpuying is a royally bestowed honorific title meaning “Lady.”
Dr. Petchara’s protege Dr. Suteera Hovijitra followed her to Indianapolis and the School of Dentistry and remained as an IUSD faculty member. In total, 51 Thai students have studied at IUSD. In fact, they have developed a counting system, numbering each student. The next Thai student to enter the program will be number 35, linked like a chain to those who have come before. They have a messaging chat room to bring them together and meet regularly, especially when Dr. Suteera visits from Indy.
A closing image
At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, highly decorated figures with fangs, painted faces, and weaponry stand near the entrance to security. Commonly called temple guardians, they are known in Buddhist mythology as yaksha: warriors who keep away evil spirits found at various temples in Thailand. The guardian warriors on display at the Bangkok airport are replicas of the famous yaksha found at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo).
I mention them here because having experienced delays on the way to Thailand, I did not have a similar experience upon my return. It may seem superstitious, but I can’t help but think that these guardians watched over me while I was in the air. Perhaps they do the same for the 45 million other travelers who pass through the airport every year.
Today marks the return of the rest of the delegation to Indianapolis at the end of a very busy and productive few days. May the guardians watch over them and may we all remember the remarkable hospitality of the Thai people whom we met and with whom we planned for a future of partnership and collaboration.