Mae Tao Clinic: Thirty years of building healthy communities

news : Insight & Analysis


Dr. Cynthia Maung is recognized worldwide for her unflagging efforts to promote healthy communities. Credit: Mae Tao Clinic

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC). From its humble beginnings in a simple wooden house near the Thai-Burma border, the MTC is now a well-established teaching hospital with nearly 100,000 patient consultations in 2018. The clinic’s momentous anniversary was celebrated and applauded at home in Mae Sot, Thailand and around the world.

Dr. Cynthia Maung is recognized worldwide for her unflagging efforts to promote healthy communities. She and a group of students founded MTC in 1989, having fled a military crackdown on democracy activists in Burma. Upon reaching Thailand, she was alarmed by how many of her fellow refugees were suffering from conflict injuries or preventable illnesses. She was moved to take action.

Today the clinic’s impact is felt far beyond its walls. The clinic is building the medical workforce in Burma, particularly those serving in conflict-affected Ethnic communities.  210 health workers received training in 2018. MTC is also a hub for health policy development, bringing together health workers and community leaders to envision and plan for a healthcare system in Burma, once there is peace and democracy.

In 1999, Inter Pares successfully nominated Dr. Cynthia for the John Humphrey Freedom Award, the first in a long list of international awards celebrating MTC. The international recognition that accompanies these awards has contributed immensely to the clinic’s success. Whether in seeking international funds, attracting volunteer doctors from around the world, or negotiating with state authorities, having international recognition has undeniably increased MTC’s leverage.

While Dr. Cynthia is often the focus of this recognition, she takes every opportunity to open doors for others. When invited to high-level meetings she almost always invites half a dozen community leaders to join her, particularly seeking youth. She shares: “This is really crucial for young people, to feel they can be the change in their community.”

Inter Pares was one of the first international organizations to fund MTC and today the clinic is supported by funders from around the world. Inter Pares has long recognized MTC as exceptional and on their 30th anniversary, it is heartening to share this recognition with a growing international community.

Today the Mae Tao Clinic's impact is felt far beyond its walls.

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  • Caren ang-oay
    Congratulations Dr. Cynthia!!!