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I spent a month volunteering with Dr. Mark,* a physician in the hill tribe villages of northern Thailand, in the summer of 2010. He was born in Myanmar, graduated from medical school in India and founded a small grassroots organization dedicated to the health of hill tribe villagers. He spent the last five years moving from village to village along the mountainous Thai-Burmese border, working on sanitation projects and seeing patients in makeshift clinics. He is hard working, humble and is known for his fluency in eight languages, including all six of the local hill tribe dialects. During my month with Dr. Mark and his organization, I helped build toilets, collect water supplies and run medical clinics.
Through this experience and my discussions about HIV/AIDS with Dr. Mark, I was exposed to the concept of HIV denialism: what it is, how it is perpetuated and what possibly led Dr. Mark to believe in it. I also reflected on the importance of fundamental science, research methods and epidemiology in the training of physicians, and how such topics affect their ability to engage with medical developments.