Q&A with Wipada Kunaviktikul (PhD 1994)

Wipada Kunaviktikul, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor and Assistant to the President at Panyahpiwat Institute of Management in Thailand and is Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Faculty of Nursing, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. Dr. Wipada received her doctoral degree from the UAB School of Nursing in 1994 and was a research fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health, USA for one year. In 2013, she was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She received the UAB School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018.

Q: What led you to pursue a career in nursing?

I thought nursing was a good profession, one that served the needs of society. It is also important to note that when I was a high school student in Thailand, there were not a lot of higher education choices for females. Given that I had an interest in science, nursing was a good choice for me. I was also interested in nursing because Chiang Mai University had recently begun offering a BSc program in nursing. This was a relatively new program that had been around for only six years. Before 1960, only a diploma program in nursing was offered in Thailand.

Q: What brought you to the UAB School of Nursing?

Our faculty at Chiang Mai University Faculty of Nursing had a strong longstanding relationship with the UAB School of Nursing. The relationship was developed under the former dean, Dr. Rachel Booth. We were also aware of UAB’s excellent reputation — at that time it was ranked No 17 in the US. My area of specialization was nursing administration and UABSON was well-known in this area so it seemed like a natural choice.

Q: How has your PhD from UAB impacted your career and your ability to make a difference in the world?

I believe that learning at UAB and my experience there benefited me both academically and personally. The international environment was extremely welcoming and the many kindnesses from my advisor, Dr. Rachel Booth, gave me the motivation to work hard and keep me on track. The faculty and staff were very friendly and supportive of international students, and the school provided many opportunities for students to join various international activities, societies, and events. All of these experiences were a tremendous support for my studies and, the understanding advisor, helpful staff and overall feeling of community made me stronger and instilled a love of working internationally.

Q: As Director of Nursing Policy and Outcome Center and the Head of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Development, what were some changes you were able to accomplish?

These centers allowed me and our Faculty of Nursing to focus on global health issues of importance to Thailand and the region, and to build a global network. For instance, the WHOCC for Nursing and Midwifery Development allowed me to participate in biannual meetings, introducing me to colleagues from all over the world, facilitating new connections and opportunities to pursue collaborations and projects. I think the work of these centers also presented opportunities to grow, to develop, and to help others. I was able to seek funding to support students and colleagues both within Thailand and internationally. There was a strong focus on educational development to allow our students to return to their home countries and help others and the world. I was able to build upon the network I first developed at UAB and work with others in academics through research and publications and new projects. This ever-growing network helped me work more smoothly and accomplish many projects.

Q: What advice would you give someone considering a career in nursing?  

The nursing profession is an excellent one, a profession that focuses on helping others. The aim of nursing is to provide quality care to people, the community and society. I believe it is the perfect combination of being able to develop science and clinical skills such as understanding how the human body works, understanding disease and combining those clinical skills with promoting compassion and care.

Nursing differs from other health professions in that the core of nursing is to humanize people and their experiences with health and illness. Anyone interested in a career in nursing must understand and embrace this. They must also have a service mindset and be knowledgeable in research, evidence-based practice, and innovation. There are also so many different opportunities in nursing – you can work directly with people and provide patient care, you can work in research, you can be an academic and teach. All roles are equally important and the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how essential the nursing profession is.   

Last, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dean Doreen Harper who always support me in variety of ways.  I do appreciate her kindnesses and all her support me as an alum. I am proud to be SONUAB Alum.

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