An 8,000-mile journey to change lives

A new Norton physician shows there’s a human side to all the news about public health crises and infectious diseases.

As HIV, antibiotic-resistant infections and other global health epidemics continue to mount fears, the demand grows for infectious disease physicians like Makhawadee Pongruangporn, M.D.

However, amid local and international health concerns, Dr. Joy, as she prefers to be called, does what she always does — treats each patient as a person.

Born and raised in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Dr. Joy’s childhood was a bit different from that of her American-born counterparts.

“In Thailand, we grew up in a close-knit household. We live in the same house as our parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles,” said Dr. Joy, who has two children with her husband, Jonathan Sagum, M.D., Norton Community Medical Associates – Endocrinology. “And I think that sense of family and support helps me talk to patients.”

Dr. Joy earned her medical degree from Chiang Mai University, where she also completed her internal medicine internship. Following an 8,000-mile journey to do her residency at St. Francis Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, she served as an instructor of medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine, Division of Hospital Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

There she found a passion for infectious diseases and completed a clinical fellowship in this complex medical specialty.

At her office on the Norton Brownsboro Hospital campus, Dr. Joy sees patients with a variety of health issues.

Chief among them is the recent HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana, which is fueled by the sharing of dirty needles among intravenous drug users.

“In the past, infectious diseases were extremely hard to treat, but now we have more information, better medication and better courses of action,” Dr. Joy said.

With HIV-positive patients specifically, she says that although the disease cannot be cured, “the patients can still live a normal life and the stigma starts to get removed.”

And for her, that brings real joy.

“Being a doctor is an honor in Thailand and it brings your family great respect,” Dr. Joy said. “But here, it gives me honor to change lives.”

Would you like more information about services for HIV, AIDS, Staph, MRSA or other infectious diseases at Norton Healthcare? Call (502) 629-1234.

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