The proceedings kicked off at 0909am with a religious ceremony and blessing, followed by speeches by the Tak Provincial Health Authority deputy chief, Prof Chris Conlon and Dr Julia Kemp from Wellcome. We were then honoured to hear an opening speech from Dr Supakit Sirilak from the Thai Ministry of Public Health, a longstanding supporter of SMRU and its work. Dr Supakit then cut the ribbon alongside Julia, Prof Gavin Screaton (Head of the Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford), and our very own Professor François Nosten, the founding Director of both SMRU and BHF - and the building was open. Crowds of visitors flocked in to explore the new building and see the beautiful displays depicting the work of SMRU and BHF.
Our VIP visitors included delegations from Wellcome and from the University of Oxford, who jointly funded the building. Thai VIPs included Dr Suta Pattarakijroongrueng, Director of Mae Ra Mart Hospital, Mr. Boonliem Takham, of the Mae Ra Mart District Administration, Ms. Amornrat Tatsanakit, Director of Regional Medical Science Center 2 Phitsanulok; Dr Wittaya Polseela and Dr Purichat Yingrangsan from the Tak PHO, and representatives from local hospitals, community-based organisatons and NGOs.
Mr Tip Ruchaitrakul and his team, who oversaw constructions, were also there, as well as those Oxford and MORU staff who have worked hard over the years on the admin, financial, legal, and construction oversight part of the project. Also present were representatives of the local community and many members of SMRU staff.
We were treated to a speech by François, gifts were given, and then lunch. All in all, a very joyous occasion, with hundreds of participants. The futures of SMRU and BHF look bright with such a magnificent new home base!
Huge thanks must go to SMRU Administrator Wannee Ritwongsakul and her team in SMRU for arranging such a wonderful and perfectly organised event, and to Pawinee Pawtong in Bangkok for ensuring all the visitors got there and back in one piece!
- Text courtesy of Nick Day.
- With thanks to Saw Htee KaPong and SawPoeChrist (BHF media) and Suphak Nosten for photos.