Burmese physician Thiha Maung Maung spent three years jetting between Vancouver and Thailand in his quest to both earn a master’s degree in public health and continue treating HIV/AIDS patients in Thailand.

MPH degree broadens Burmese doctor’s reach

October 7, 2010

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By Helena Bryan

It’s no surprise that when Thiha Maung Maung has time to watch a movie it’s the pure-escapism variety, because the rest of his life is bursting with serious pursuits.

"I like action movies with lots of fighting, gangsters and car chases," says the 35-year-old physician, who spent the past three years both earning an SFU Master in Public Health (MPH) degree and treating HIV/AIDS-infected Burmese refugees and migrants in Thailand.

Then again, the young doctor, originally from Yangon, Burma (Myanmar), is used to daunting schedules. Before SFU, he logged several years as a medical doctor in Burma, Thailand and East Timor.

It was during his medical training that he first encountered HIV/AIDS in a very personal way. His 30-year-old brother died of the disease when he was just 24 and Maung Maung resolved then to make treating HIV/AIDS his life’s work.

But he soon realized that caring for patients one by one wasn’t enough and he began looking for a broader, public-health approach, which led him to SFU.

In 2007, Maung Maung got funding from the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to start an educational, training and research project at a Thai clinic for displaced Burmese patients living with HIV/AIDS.

Maung Maung used his vacation time from school to work with clinic founder Dr. Cynthia Maung on the project, which led to additional funding from the Canadian government for similar projects in the area.

Maung Maung is careful to credit others for this success. "It wouldn’t have been possible without the technical and professional support of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences," he says, adding that a dozen of his classmates helped him write a top-quality final report on the project.

Looking ahead, Maung Maung’s schedule won’t likely ease up any time soon. His plans include a master’s degree in immunology and a PhD in molecular epidemiology—with a few action movies squeezed in along the way.


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what a wonderful accomplishment, I wish Dr. Thiha Maung Maung really well in his future studies in molecular epidemiology.


I hope Dr. Thiha Maung Maung really well in his future studies in molecular epidemiology.

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