By Steven W. Hildebrand ’80-A
Bangkok Adventist Hospital (BAH) is known throughout Thailand as “Mission Hospital.” For almost 75 years it has been supported by Loma Linda University School of Medicine alumni at its downtown location near the Royal Palace. Founded by Ralph F. Waddell ’36, Mission Hospital was supported by a succession of mission-minded physicians from Loma Linda University School of Medicine, including Roger T. Nelson ’45, Ethel R. Nelson ’48, Neil R. Thrasher ’48, Roger C. Van Arsdell ’60, Keith K. Colburn ’70, and many others. The medical staff gradually grew to include missionaries from around the world, including the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, and Sweden.
By 1990, Thai medical schools were graduating enough physicians to meet the country’s needs, and licensure required a board exam in the Thai language. After intensive language study, Nick A. Walters ’89 accomplished this remarkable feat and continues to serve there as a family physician along with many Thai physicians who share the goals of Mission Hospital. In addition to its renown for excellent medical care, the hospital runs highly regarded schools of nursing and midwifery, and has a rural lifestyle health promotion campus.
As the COVID-19 pandemic devastated Wuhan, China, followed closely by overwhelming outbreaks in Italy and New York in early 2020, Thailand was relatively spared and there was some speculation that perhaps exposure to related coronavirus infections may have given the population some level of immunity. Soon after California became overwhelmed by a January–February 2021 peak of infections, cases in Bangkok began to rise, mirroring the ongoing devastating surge in India. By May, Dr. Walters reported all hospitals in Bangkok were filled beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients. Mission Hospital opened two COVID-19 units and turned a delivery room into a COVID-19 ICU. All ventilators were in use and additional high-flow oxygen providing units were badly needed.
The Alumni in Mission Service (AIMS) Council of the Alumni Association seeks to assist all alumni working in international mission or humanitarian service. Early in the pandemic we were able to send $2,500 to each hospital or clinic where alumni are serving to help with the added expenses of the COVID-19 crisis. Some used the money for purchasing personal protective equipment for hospital staff, some used it for testing supplies and medications, and others for local patient education and outreach.
On May 13, Dr. Walters reported that a high-flow oxygen providing unit was available locally in Bangkok for $8,000. The AIMS Council was able to approve this emergency request and promptly wire the money to Mission Hospital, where it will save additional lives and help Dr. Walters and his colleagues provide the best possible care in these most difficult times. Thanks to the donations of our alumni, AIMS had money available in reserve for emergencies such as this. Now we would like to both replenish those reserves and respond to additional needs of our dedicated alumni serving overseas.