Surapol Natakankitkul is a very successful and internationally
accredited academic. Currently the assistant professor of
Pharmacy at Chiang Mai University, he has over 20 scientific
papers to his credit, which he has authored or co-authored, and
is acknowledged world-wide for his work in the application of
herbs in medicine.
He was born in Nakhon Sawan, the son of a
Thai-Chinese merchant, and he jokingly referred to the fact that
he was born on April Fool’s Day, though it is obvious to
anyone that Dr. Surapol is certainly no fool, April or
As a young boy he became known for his
charitable nature, forever taking beggars home and asking his
mother for food to give to them. This was something that was
He was a good student, finishing his
secondary education at a government school in Bangkok, and by
the time he graduated from there he knew that his future was in
medicine. “I wanted to do something about the suffering of the
poor, so that for me was something in the medical field.”
Selecting Pharmacy as his future he entered
Chiang Mai University in 1975 to begin his five years as an
undergraduate. Emerging with his Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy
he went to Phayao to the 400 bed provincial hospital as a
clinical pharmacist, but it was soon apparent that the new young
pill dispenser was not going to just spend his time counting
tablets. He was soon branching out to lecture in Pharmacology to
the College of Nursing.
It was also soon apparent that the young
pharmacist was going to be a high flyer. After three years in
Phayao he went to Chulalongkorn University to study for and take
his Master’s degree in Pharmacy, finishing in 1987.
By now there was no real stopping him. It was
not going to be a case of going back to counting tablets ever
again. There was more to come in his education. This turned out
to be a scholarship from the Austrian government to go to
Innsbruck University to study biotechnology. There he became
involved in the multi-centered Human Genome project, to produce
the first human DNA sequencing to unlock our own genetic
make-up. He spent almost three years there, having had to first
learn German and then write his thesis in that language to get
his PhD in Analytical Chemistry and Biotechnology from Innsbruck
University in 1991.
He returned to Thailand, and because of the
scholarship requirements had to return to his original location
at Phayao where he again worked in the hospital, but now at
supervisor level. He also became involved with the hill tribe
peoples, by becoming a volunteer in the Princess Mother’s
projects. “This was a good chance for me to do something for
the poor people.” Despite the rarefied atmosphere of academia,
he had not forgotten just ‘why’ he had entered the medical
field in the first place.
However, his progress in his profession
continued too, and he returned to Chiang Mai University to
become a lecturer, to impart his experience to the students,
sitting where he himself had once been, thirsting for knowledge.
His need to do something for those less
privileged than others in the community also took him into the
service organizations and he joined Rotary International and
these days is now the immediate past president of the Rotary
Club of Chiang Mai North. He has also led Group Study Exchange
teams of young people around the world, including to Australia.
But it does not stop there. He has other
volunteer ‘jobs’ utilizing his talents, and he is working
with the Royal Project Foundation in the investigation of
pesticide residues on vegetables. Considering that he has
authored scientific treatises (with other researchers) on such
topics as the “Development of Analysis of Organophosphorus
Insecticides Using Solid Phase Microextraction and Gas
Chromatography”, Chiang Mai Medical Bulletin, and
“Determination of Chlorate and its derivatives in Longan
Fruits” for the same publication, you can see what a boon his
volunteer work must be to the Royal Project.
The personal climb continued too, becoming
the assistant dean (Academic affairs) in 1995, then associate
dean (Student Affairs) in 1997 and rising to assistant professor
three years later. He is also concurrently the deputy director
of the University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV) in Chiang
He is involved in being a QA Auditor, for ISO
9000:2000 and Good Manufacturing Practices GMP/HACCP consultant
and auditor for many hospitals in the north of Thailand.
With his academic qualifications, it then
comes as no surprise to me that he has also become involved in
quality control (QC) in the north, particularly where this
relates to medicinal plants, taking him right into the ‘hot’
field at present, that of herbal remedies. In this regard, he is
currently working with the Lanna Spa Association, as clinical
science is applied to ‘local wisdom’. He has even been to
China to look at the work that is being done there in this
field, and has a trip planned to Japan for next year. The herbal
work has the potential to assist mankind with the control of
cholesterol, and into the ‘anti-aging’ effects that some of
the Thai herbs are appearing to show.
By this stage in the interview I was becoming
astounded at just what this relatively young man had
accomplished. Not only had he served his time well in the
cloistered halls of academia, but he was a keen amateur
photographer, and even brought out some of his albums to show
me. And he loved to travel. “Only the South Pole and the North
Pole to go,” said the well travelled Dr. Surapol.
He has his personal credo that says, “Every
minute is very valuable,” and he certainly lives by that. “I
tell people don’t miss your chances,” he said. Dr. Surapol
has certainly not overlooked any of his!
He wants more biotechnology work, combining government and
private sectors, “I feel they need to be connected,” he
says. Me? I’m exhausted!