IU in Thailand

Seven decades of relationship-building resulting in IU’s longest-standing partnership

As one of the oldest dental schools in the United States, the school has been training future dentists worldwide for decades, including in Thailand.

As one of the oldest dental schools in the nation, and the only dental school in Indiana, the Indiana University School of Dentistry at IUPUI has been training future dentists for almost 140 years.

Over fifty of those dentists have come from Thailand.

"As far as dentistry is concerned, in terms of the U.S. norm for dental schools, we're pretty well ahead of many in terms of our commitment to internationalization," said Michael Kowolik, professor, executive associate dean and associate dean for faculty affairs and global engagement at the School of Dentistry. "So at any one time, about 50 percent of our graduate students are international students. Our largest contingent are from Saudi Arabia, and our second largest contingent is from Thailand."

Globalization has been a mission of the IU School of Dentistry for more than 50 years and has included numerous collaborations, some of which involve the exchange of students, faculty and ideas. Like IU as a whole, one of the school's longest relationships has been with Thailand.

Description of the following video:

[Words appear in lower-right corner: Indiana University presents]

[Video: The exterior of the IU School of Dentistry, or IUSD, on IUPUI's campus.]
Michael Kowolik, of the IU School of Dentistry, speaks in voiceover: The School of Dentistry has a very rich history of involvement globally.
[Video: Kowolik appears on camera.]
[Words appear: Michael Kowolik, School of Dentistry]
Kowolik speaks in voiceover: Some of our graduate programs go back to the 1950s and 1960s, some are more recent.
[Video: New dental equipment and exam stations in a lab at IUSD.]
Kowolik speaks in voiceover: In terms of the U.S. norm for dental schools, we're pretty well ahead of many in terms of our commitment …
[Video: A sign that reads "BDMS Wellness Clinic; Predict - Prevent - Personalized."]
Kowolik speaks in voiceover: … to internationalization. So, at any one time, about …
[Video: A dentist from Thailand walks down a hallway at the IUSD office. Later she is seen in her scrubs and lab coat, working with a patient. The dentist looks at a computer screen that shows an X-ray of her patient's teeth.]
Kowolik speaks in voiceover: … 50 percent of our graduate students are international students. Our largest contingent are from Saudi Arabia, and our second-largest contingent…
[Video: Kowolik appears on camera.]
Kowolik speaks: … are from here in Thailand.
[Video: The dentist from Thailand begins to examine her patient. The patient is lying back in her chair. A technician is assisting the dentist. She uses dental tools to examine her patient's teeth.]
Kowolik speaks in voiceover: So, we've had master's students, Ph.D. students, postdocs from Thailand that have gone on to very successful careers here in Thailand.
[Video: Kamolphob Phasuk, a clinical assistant professor with the department of prosthodontics at IUSD, appears on camera.]
[Words appear: Kamolphob Phasuk; Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Prosthodontics]
Phasuk speaks: IU has a big reputation, a big connection for, in Thailand especially with Chulalongkorn, for quite a long time …
[Video: Three dental students from Thailand stand in the lab area, studying and reviewing notes they have taken. The Indianapolis skyline can be seen behind them through the large windows. Later, another Thai student is practicing her skills by using dental tools on a test dummy. Next, the dental equipment and exam stations at IUSD are shown.
Phasuk speaks in voiceover: … and plus in prosthodontics world, we have lots of books published from the authors who were studying or teaching at IU.
[Video: A patient is seen in a dental chair. Two females, wearing scrubs, prepare the room and begin to examine his teeth.
Phasuk speaks in voiceover: So, IU school's renowned for prosthodontics anyway. So, when I got opportunity to talk to one of … the chair in the department at that time, …
[Video: Phasuk appears on camera.]
Phasuk speaks: … so he asked me, would you like to join us? I said, "Of course, yes."
[Video: A dentist in Thailand walks through the waiting room of the dental office. She meets two other dentists in an examining area and begins to talk to them.]
Phasuk speaks in voiceover: One thing that I think is important in your life, after you get to do something everywhere in the world, you need to give back to the city you come from, where you come from, and the city you live with.
[Video: A sign that reads, "FLIP8; Future Leaders in Prosthodontic 8; Workshop Program; Faculty of Dentistry Chulalongkorn University; Bangkok, Thailand; March 4-5, 2019" is shown. A person walks in front of the sign.]
Phasuk speaks in voiceover: So, it's lucky for me that the two places that I come from and the place that I am working, …
[Video: Phasuk and a co-worker are looking at his laptop. Later, Phasuk is seen talking to another individual.]
Phasuk speaks in voiceover: … they already have a close relationship. And I can just strengthen that by trying to make it more active and active and keep, you know, this going.
[Screen goes to black]
[IU trident appears]
[Words appear: Indiana University]
[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]
[Words appear: iu.edu]

The School of Dentistry signed its first collaboration with Chulalongkorn University, the oldest university in the modern Thai educational system, in 1993, thanks to a 1960 graduate named Thanpuying Petchara Techakampuch.

Aerial view of Chulalongkorn UniversityView print quality image
Chulalongkorn "Chula" University in Bangkok, Thailand. Getty Images

Techakampuch, or Dr. Petch as she is known, grew up in Bangkok, the daughter of a government official and a homemaker. Education was emphasized in her family, so college was always on the horizon. And in 1958, Techakampuch had the opportunity to study under Dr. John F. Johnston, an Internationally respected lecturer and textbook author at the IU School of Dentistry who chaired the school's crown and bridge department in the 1950s and '60s.

"I have fond memories of my time at IU," Techakampuch said. "My professors were so very kind to me, especially Dr. Johnston, who was my mentor. He treated me like I was his own daughter."

After receiving her master's degree at IU in 1960, Techakampuch went on to have an illustrious career, introducing Thailand's first porcelain bridge and crown procedure and serving as dentist for the late King Rama IX and many members of The Royal Family. She helped create the Royal Dental Unit, a mobile unit that still brings dental care to people in rural Thailand.

Dr. Petch at the dental conference.

From top: Dr. Thanpuying Petchara Techakampuch with a delegation of univeristy deans from Thailand; Techakampuch at the museum; and Techakampuch at a recent dental conference co-organized by the IU School of Dentistry. Photo provided by the IU School of Dentistry.

It was her time as dean of dentistry at Chulalongkorn, home to the first dental school in Thailand, that helped solidify the connection between the two schools.

"Dr. Petch is one of our most famous alums," Kowolik said. "She is so well respected in her field, and she really served as a connection between the university and programs in Thailand."

The next generation

Although many students travel from Thailand to Indianapolis to study, the exchange between the school and the country goes beyond students.

As a prosthodontist, Kamolphob "Aek" Phasuk was well aware of the IU School of Dentistry's reputation as one of the leaders in the field. So when he had the opportunity to join the faculty, he jumped at the chance.

Peerapat Kaweewongprasert at the dental conference photo. View print quality image
Peerapat Kaweewongprasert, an IU School of Dentistry alum, presents at the dental conference recently held in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo provided by Peerapat Kaweewongprasert

"IU has a big reputation and a big connection to Thailand, especially with Chulalongkorn, where I graduated from," said Phasuk, a native of Thailand. "In the prosthodontics world, we have a lot of books published from authors who teach at IU. So IU is renowned in the prosthodontics world. When I had the opportunity to talk to one of the department chairs at the time, and he asked me, 'Would you like to join us?' of course, I said yes."

Phasuk was on hand when School of Dentistry faculty and administration visited Thailand recently. The delegation, including Kowolik and Dean John Williams, traveled to the country to take part in the Future Leaders in Prosthodontics conference, a leadership seminar for up-and-coming prosthodontics.

Attendees hailed from all over the world, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China. That conference was followed by a one-day symposium co-hosted by the Thai Association of Dental Implantology and the IU School of Dentistry that more than 300 people attended.

Bringing together both up-and-coming dental professionals and some of the top dentists in the world is part of what makes the School of Dentistry so innovative, Phasuk said.

From top: Dr. Poy Palika at her dental office; Bhalang "Nok" Kanokporn teaching students at Chula; and Kamolphob "Aek" Phasuk at the dental conference.

"Oral health is something that affects everyone," he said. "Whether it's for cosmetic reasons or simply needing to eat, people need good oral health. As the field continues to grow, there is a need to collaborate more, to become more global. Through our work and collaboration with countries like Thailand, we are doing that."

As the IU School of Dentistry heads into 60 years of collaboration with Thailand, administrators are continuing to look to the future, building partnerships with universities and scholars throughout the world.

"Partnerships like the one we have with Thailand align with the global mission IU has had for decades," Kowolik said. "I am a great believer in the importance of globalization, of cross-cultural exchanges that in the end can be productive not just for political reasons but social reasons for people to understand one another's lives. Globalization enhances the societies in which we live."