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Meet Bangkok’s favourite expat Doctor: Dr. Donna Robinson


This article was first published in online magazine Dated: 19th December, 2022 written By Kathleen Pokrud 

Link to the full article here:

Dr. Donna Robinson, CEO of MedConsult Clinic has lived in Bangkok since 1990. She describes Thailand as home after residing here for 32 years. Expat Life caught up with the expatriate doctor with the Thai medical license on her story, and talked about some common medical issues often faced by expatriates residing here.

Dr. Donna recorded what brought her to Thailand, “I moved to Thailand to follow my husband Ian, whom I met in Hong Kong. When we were in London, he was sent to Bangkok as a civil engineer. I am a doctor from Newcastle in England where I originally qualified, but when I first moved here, I could not practice medicine because I did not hold the Thai Medical License. I took a job with ASIN, an NGO, but had no idea how difficult it would be for me to not be allowed to treat patients and practice medicine. Seeing patients is what fulfils and brings me joy. My first few years of living here were so difficult as I was stuck writing proposals and working on HIV projects in my role at the NGO. I did not even know how to write proposals, or what an objective or a budget was.”

Dr. Donna

Looking back, Dr. Donna shared some wise words, “I learned so much in that first year which I now tell everyone that; when you move to Thailand, if you find it difficult at first you will probably really end up really liking Thailand and staying long term.”

As the story continued, Dr. Donna finally became one of the first batch of foreign doctors with a Thai medical license. “The Thai Medical License was in English some years before I took it but it changed back to Thai which of course is reasonable since you must be able to communicate with the people of the country you are working. I was young then just decided to get back to being a doctor treating patients and that meant I had to learn Thai. I took on a Thai teacher, called Jintana, whom many expats know. Jintana and her sister taught me first how to read children’s books before we progressed to medical books.”

“I also went to see the Dean of the medical school at Chulalongkorn University. He planned a 6 month attachment for me following the same schedule as medical students and newly qualified doctors. That was all free and now I am sure you would have to pay but everyone was so helpful in supporting my goal. There were also some courses I went on at Siriraj and Ramathibodi hospitals. They were really good in preparation for the coming exams and teaching was excellent which I enjoyed. In the old days, I used a dictionary to look up words I did not know.”

Dr. Donna further elaborated, “I studied at night after work and used past papers of medical exams. I was much younger then so I could manage it. By that time, I had two small children, Sandy was born in 1995 and Helena in 1997 while I was doing this, so I studied when they were asleep. After two years, I passed the Thai Medical Exams and continue to also hold my UK Medical License. Now my nights are a glass of wine and watching a movie.”

Expat Life asked Dr. Donna what are the most common concerns with foreign patients residing in Thailand. She commented, “Foreign patients often ask if they can get certain medicines once they move to Thailand. Some even ask if the doctors here speak English. Medical textbooks are in English and Thai. Many Thai doctors are trained at top universities in the US and UK. The quality of care is really excellent here. Patients often find it hard to decide which hospital to choose or which doctor to consult. This is where we can help as the General Practice clinic.”

Dr. Donna

Every year Thailand receives many newly arrived expats to Thailand, especially elderly retirees or young families. Dr. Donna advised, “Everyone should have health insurance at least for major medical problems. Young families are concerned about vaccinations, so making sure they are kept up to date is important when you move here. I reassure people they can get professional medical treatment in Bangkok.”

As a seasoned medical practitioner in Bangkok, Dr. Donna frankly disclosed her view of the hospital care for expatriate communities in Bangkok, “Hospital care is excellent. There are top specialists in the hospitals here and you can have full confidence in them. After working in Thailand for so long, I have worked closely with many. I can always match the patient with the right hospital specialist. The fact hospitals are ‘JCI certified’ means that every single clinic or doctor in Bangkok is pulled up to follow the best international and Thai guidelines, so the quality of care here really is exceptional on an international level.”

MedConsult is her private practice, Dr. Donna explained the kind of medical help that she offers, “We are a general practice so a whole host of services are offered. Most common problems with patients are chest infections, stomach bugs, medical prescriptions; sometimes for depression and anxiety, medical checkups, blood tests and of course, Botox and fillers.”

As our interview draws to a close, Expat Life asked Dr. Donna on her view of Thailand after residing here for three decades. She candidly shared, “I look on Thailand more and more as home, but I guess like all expats I think of my birth country, UK, as home and yet when I visit the UK, I always feel more at home in Bangkok.”

Adding last words with our readers, “Living in this large international city you will meet all kinds of people and many who come here have interesting stories to tell. I also have found with all the travelling, Covid testing done by my clinic MedConsult, where wesaw thousands of patients daily, that many Thai people live all over the world as expats. We can sometimes complain about the hardships of being a new expat; but they too are expats, and or someone from their family may also live away, so they do understand what it is like for you to be living in a new place.”

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