“น้ำขึ้นให้รีบตัก” is a Thai proverb that translates to “When the water rises, hurry to get some.” You may know a similar saying: Make hay while the sun shines.
Opportunities are only as good as what you do with them, as one IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians vascular surgeon knows very well. Born and raised in Thailand to a family of farmers, Duangnapa Cuddy, DO, has seen what it’s like to live without healthcare due to lack of access and funds.
Her humanitarian efforts to help others impacted by lack of healthcare were recently applauded by the American College of Surgeons (ACOS) as they named her their 2022 Humanitarian Award recipient.
Humbled by this recognition, Dr. Cuddy says it motivates and encourages her to continue her work, which all started when the shine of opportunity called in the form of moving to the United States. From there, she took her future in hand and went to school to become a doctor.
During her clinical training, Dr. Cuddy volunteered in rural community medicine in Arkansas and Virginia where she saw that significant discrepancies in medical distribution are alive and well, even in her new country.
Dr. Cuddy said, “We didn’t learn that in medical school. So, once I did know the reality, it was implanted into my mind. It became a mission of mine that when I grew up, I wanted to bring this knowledge to help people in the rural area of the US as well.”
Since then, Dr. Cuddy has finished her education and continued her humanitarian efforts by volunteering in rural areas in Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, West Virginia, and Indiana. Globally, her medical and surgical mission work has taken her to Cambodia, Nigeria, and Mexico.
Her goal for this work is to give others some sunshine through her medical expertise.
When speaking about her first international humanitarian mission in Cambodia, Dr. Cuddy said:
“When I was there, it was the first time I completely detached from all self-concerns and fully dedicated myself to other people. To experience that kind of feeling and the reciprocal kindness and appreciation from the patients—was beyond what I was expecting. It was divine, enlightening, and transcendent. Whenever I have some difficulty in life, I always go back to that moment.”
And her work does more than treat specific ailments or diseases. It inspires young people in the community to reach for their dreams.
“If you have your intention, you can always follow your dream,” said Dr. Cuddy. “You can achieve your dream, and once you do that, don’t forget to bring it back to the community, to the people.”
When she’s not helping with humanitarian efforts around the globe, Dr. Cuddy works as a vascular surgeon at IU Health Bloomington in Bloomington, Indiana.
“She is very dedicated,” said Brandi Young, RN. “She loves her work, and it shows.”
Young noted the surgeon puts time and effort into working with patients on conservative treatment plans instead of jumping straight to surgical options. And with her team, Dr. Cuddy is all about helping them grow.
“It’s definitely like, ‘I want you to come beside me. I want to teach you. Ask questions if you have questions,’” said Young. “It’s been a blessing to work with her.”
Young described Dr. Cuddy as very generous and always wanting to help others, which reflects in her continued humanitarian efforts. Comparing her volunteering to smaller pieces of a more significant humanitarian effort, Dr. Cuddy encourages others to help make a difference where they can.
“You may think, ‘Oh, this is not significant,’” Dr. Cuddy said. “But every single piece of the puzzle is important.”
And these efforts are offering sunshine to new generations.
“Eventually, the world will be a better place.”