Dr. Cynthia Maung: Nurturing leaders at the Mae Tao Clinic

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La Docteure Cynthia discute du traitement des patients dans le département consacré aux soins des enfants.
Mae Tao Clinic: Dr. Cynthia discusses patient care in the Child Inpatient Department.Credit: Allyse Pulliam

Dr. Cynthia Maung is a gentle, soft-spoken physician from Burma. Like thousands of others, she fled the 1988 military crackdown on democracy activists in her country. She travelled in the relative safety of the dark, spending seven nights walking through the jungle. As she passed through villages, she and her friends provided health care with what little supplies they carried. In the months after they arrived in Thailand, Dr. Cynthia and a few colleagues opened the Mae Tao Clinic in a dilapidated building close to the border with Burma to attend to the emergency needs of refugees.

Over the past 25 years, the Mae Tao Clinic has grown into a significant health service provider with over five hundred staff and an average of over two hundred patients coming to the clinic every day. In 2012, 3,319 babies were safely delivered at the clinic – just over half the number delivered at Canada’s largest hospital. Half of the clinic’s patients have travelled from within Burma to seek health care. The other patients, having left their homes in Burma, live in Thailand where they are trying to earn money to send back to their families.

Inter Pares recently created a short video about Dr. Cynthia and her leadership. These words were repeatedly used to describe her: committed, inspirational, focused, and role model. Perhaps most striking are her efforts to encourage new generations of healthcare providers and to inspire new leadership.

Cynthia has invested time and resources in programs to nurture new leaders. The clinic is also a training centre – a place where young people and health workers from all of Burma’s ethnicities come together to learn new skills or upgrade existing practices. For Dr. Cynthia, this is what the clinic is all about: “This is really crucial for young people, to feel they can be the change in their community.” Dr. Cynthia’s dedication and accomplishments have been celebrated through a long list of international awards. In order to ensure others are afforded the access and opportunities she has gained, when invited to high-level meetings she almost always invites half a dozen community group leaders to join her.

For over twenty years, Inter Pares has been supporting Dr. Cynthia’s critical work and her vision for healthcare in Burma – a sustainable and free system that is invested in its community. As Burma begins to democratize, the contributions of women such as Dr. Cynthia are immeasurable.

To hear directly from Dr. Cynthia Maung and from some of our other Burma program counterparts, watch the video:


This is really crucial for young people, to feel they can be the change in their community.

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