Tony Thawanyarat spent his undergraduate career studying abroad, volunteering, serving in student government and as a Terry ambassador. Now as a future physician at the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, he is committed to advocating for those around him. He hopes to create a health care system that produces safe and efficient outcomes and decreases barriers for individuals to seek care.
Norcross High School
Family ties to UGA:
I am the first person in my family to attend the University of Georgia and pursue a career as a physician. Most of my family members have their alma maters in the United Kingdom, Thailand and Taiwan, but I’m glad I can call the University of Georgia mine.
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership
Bachelor of Arts in economics, minor in biology, and certificate in personal and organizational leadership, University of Georgia, May 2020
Top university highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
During my time at UGA, I interned with the orthopedics department at the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, where I shadowed multiple orthopedic surgeons and followed patients from admission to discharge. This was an invaluable experience, allowing me to observe the entire patient care process. I later volunteered at the Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, where I navigated patients to their appointments at various departments, ranging across neurology, midwifery, rehabilitation, cardiology and more. These experiences have amplified my desire to dedicate a life to medicine and learn more about the access and distribution of care for patients in any health care setting.
I also joined the Center for Vaccines and Immunology during my first year. My mentor Valerie Ryman and I studied Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella bronchiseptica and their associated manipulations with vaccines for pertussis (whooping cough). During my last two years, I worked with Vincent Pohl and Meghan Skira on various research projects ranging from examining Medicare benefits to the impacts of Canadian medical leave.
Additional activities, honors and awards:
- Student Government Association, a two-term senator representing the Terry College of Business and the chair of the Committee on Educational Affairs.
- 2019 Leonard Leadership Scholar at the Institute for Leadership Advancement.
- Terry ambassador, vice president of the Terry Economics Society, the director of mentorship for Terry Student Researchers and Terry Student of the Year.
- 2020 Deer Run Fellow, attended seminars with Dean Benjamin Ayers and various prominent figures in business.
- Shop with a Bulldawg mentor.
- Peer mentor through the Honors Program.
- Tutor at the Thomas Lay After-School Program and the Athens Tutorial Program.
- Honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Gamma Sigma and the Alpha Epsilon Delta Society.
- Scholarships: Cecil Walker Scholarship, Charter Scholarship, Zell B. Miller Scholarship and the Terry Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Economics.
- Presidential Award of Excellence from President Jere W. Morehead and Dean Ayers, an award given to the top 1% of students graduating in the Class of 2020 for their commitment to academics, leadership and service to the university.
I want to take a moment to say that all of my experiences, honors and opportunities were not earned solely on my own effort. I owe more than I can say to the countless hours I spent with my professors in office hours, the frantic texts and phone calls to my mentors and peers, the culture and support system that the university has instilled for every single student to achieve success, and most importantly, the unwavering support that my parents gave me every day.
How did you decide to come to UGA?
Growing up, I always thought I would go out of state for my undergraduate degree. When the time came to make a decision, I was considering three in-state schools: Georgia Tech, Emory and UGA. The beautiful campus, culture and community that Athens had to offer, coupled with a superlative Honors Program and the first-rate Terry College of Business, led me to UGA. I knew the Classic City was the place for me.
How did you choose your major?
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in health care, but always had an interest in business and economics. I looked to the Terry College of Business, fell in love with economics and never looked back.
Why did you choose to attend the AU/UGA Medical Partnership?
After receiving early acceptance to the Medical College of Georgia, I had the decision between attending their Augusta campus or their Athens campus. I know both campuses have amazing faculty and great resources, but the smaller campus and the small-group teaching style drew me to the Athens campus. And who wouldn’t want to stay a few more years in the Classic City while still attending the flagship public medical school in Georgia? I call this a win-win in my book.
How is medical school different from undergraduate?
Mainly the volume of material. Sometimes this can get overwhelming, but at the same time, it is very rewarding to see the science we learn in the classroom manifest into the patients we will be treating in the clinic. The medical partnership has designed a curriculum emphasizing the importance of practical clinical skills that will translate to how we will eventually practice medicine.
What has surprised you about medical school?
I never thought I would be starting medical school in the midst of a pandemic, but here we are. My peers and the faculty cultivate an environment that is truly second to none. The support system is amazing, and every single faculty member at the AU/UGA Medical Partnership is dedicated to seeing us become world-class physicians. Moreover, I was recently elected as the president of my medical school class. I am excited and ready to continue to work with my classmates to strengthen our opportunities for mentorship, networking and research, even in these most unusual times.
My favorite place to study is …
… Patient Encounter Room 121 in Russell Hall on the Health Sciences Campus. This is the only room on the first floor of Russell Hall that isn’t used anymore for clinical skills, and my study group and I have turned this room into our go-to study room. Don’t tell anyone, but we have even stashed our study snacks in cabinets for late-night snacking. The pandemic has really forced us all to get creative with our study spaces.
My favorite professor is …
There are too many impactful professors that have instilled invaluable advice, mentorship and guidance, both during my undergrad and currently in medical school.
At the Medical Partnership
The support and thought-provoking discussions that I have had with Dr. Jo Albritton and Dr. Mike Russell about medicine have been a highlight of my medical school experience. Moreover, the fun and supportive environment that the anatomy faculty (Dr. DeLoris Hesse, Dr. Ariel VanLeuven and Dr. Brett Szymik) has created has truly made my Thursday afternoons something to look forward to.
I am very appreciative of Dr. John Francis, the associate dean for student and multicultural affairs, who has been an amazing mentor and faculty member to work with. He constantly strives to push each of us to reach our potential and to aim for our goals. Additionally, he makes it his priority to advocate for and support all medical students.
At UGA, some of the amazing professors that helped me get to where I am today are:
- Tricia Hackleman has been an invaluable mentor, friend and supporter throughout my time at UGA. Ever since I took her course on the legal and regulatory environment of business in 2017, I have made it a habit to visit her office multiple times a semester. Professor Hackleman has always made it her objective to help her students in any way that she can. From her encouragement of my career goals to the multitude of invaluable advice she pours into our interactions, it’s no wonder that there’s always a line outside her office.
- Sylvia Hutchinson has been a source of guidance for me during the medical school application season. With countless meetings over my personal statements and my decisions on where to pursue my medical education, she helped me realize my potential and how to craft the story I wanted to share. She also introduced me to the medical partnership back in 2018. My favorite memories are the many meetings with her and Sydney Erickson (another Amazing Student) at Thai Spoon and the Grit. The pad thai and grilled tempeh reuben were just what we needed.
- Learning from Dean Ayers and the Ivesters during my Deer Run seminars was an amazing experience to learn more about leadership and see it in practice in the decisions made as a dean or CEO.
The list goes on, but I would be remiss to not mention just a few more of my amazing mentors and faculty: Gregory Robinson, Zhengwei Pan, Oliver Li, Richard Morrison, Doug Jackson, Alan Darvill, David Hall, David Mustard, Dale Greene, Don Chambers, Rob Nichols, Laura Little, Courtney Aldrich, Don Addison, Elizabeth Hughes, Diana Beckett and Tyler Nungesser — thank you.
The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… spend a summer semester at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Being an economics major, experiencing the faculty and culture of LSE was a must. That summer, I took courses in economics, marketing and business management. Having discussions about the material with students from all over the world was the experience of a lifetime.
I had an amazing time hanging out in the middle of London between classes and exploring with my newfound friends.
From taking a riverboat cruise down the Thames to strolling the streets of Mayfair and Knightsbridge, I really felt like a Londoner. It was fairly cheap to hop over to other parts of Europe, so I spent a weekend in Paris experiencing the Tour de France, another in Amsterdam scouring the streets for stroopwafels and poffertjes.
I still keep in contact with many of the friends I made at LSE. It’s always fun trying to schedule Zoom call reunions with everyone scattered across the world, from Stockholm to Belgrade to Copenhagen to Brussels to Sydney.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
… Roy Vagelos. He was a physician and business executive who bridged the gap between scientific research and visionary corporate leadership. He not only revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry during his leadership of Merck & Co., but he demonstrated a desire for medical advancement along with philanthropic grace. He made several key decisions that led to the cures of many diseases and ailments across the world. He stands as a role model of how the combination of medicine and business has a place in this world.
Fun fact about me:
If a commercial jet flew by, chances are I could tell you if it was a Boeing 747 or an Airbus A380, what airline it was, what kind of engines were fitted on the aircraft, and a slew of other interesting facts about its specifications.
If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… get my pilot’s license. Ever since I was a child, I have been the biggest aviation geek and frequent flyer. It would be a dream to be the captain of a Double Sunrise Flight, flying from Sydney, Australia, to London, England, and being able to see two sunrises occur during one direct flight.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
…. start a foundation focused on providing reconstructive surgeries to underserved communities in need. While plastic and reconstructive surgery may sometimes have a vain connotation, many forms of reconstructive surgery can have a transformative impact on people’s lives. Still, it can often be difficult for people to access.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
My passion is advocating for others in ways that can make their lives easier, better and more comfortable. Health care shouldn’t be a burden to the patient and shouldn’t cause any more stress beyond the ailment they are seeking care for. I want to work toward improving systems that help individuals navigate the complexities of health care, as well as improving access to care to help alleviate the troubles, stress and potential hesitation of pursuing medical care.
After graduation, I hope to …
… match into a surgical residency program. Eventually, I would like to explore different business schools to find an MBA program that can help me better understand the practice and management of medicine. A degree in business administration will equip me with the tools to reshape and implement a health care system that can focus more on patient-centered care and improve outcomes of any individual that steps foot in this health care system.
I #CommitTo Investing in every interaction