From beauty queen to TV anchor to psychiatrist – meet the latest ‘face’ of Thailand’s virus battle
Dr. Apisamai Srirangsan has become the second former beauty queen to join the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s spokesperson team, tasked with updating the public on the mission to ride out the pandemic.
Crowned Miss Thailand in 1999, Apisamai joined former Miss Thailand 2008 Dr. Panprapa Yongtrakul to become assistant CCSA spokesperson. Her colleague took up the role in May last year.
Apisamai was recruited when a new wave of COVID-19 emerged last month, sending the number of new cases surging into the hundreds each day.
“I have confidence in her,” declared CCSA spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin as he introduced her to the public on January 7.
“She is my junior, a psychiatrist,” he said.
Born in 1974, Apisamai attended the prestigious Satriwittaya School before studying at Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Medicine. In 1999, she made headlines for becoming the first medical student to win the Miss Thailand crown. She was also named Charming Lady and Miss Congeniality at the same pageant.
She clinched victory with her answer to the final question on stage, which demonstrated her mature and positive mindset. Asked about negative perceptions of Thai women among foreigners, Apisamai said: “Every society has good and bad people. A few Thai women are bad, but perhaps that is due to economic and social problems. Open your mind a bit, and you may be able to sympathise with them.”
Shunning fame and fortune that comes with being named Thailand’s most beautiful woman, Apisamai continued her education and picked up a degree in psychiatry at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital. She then worked as a psychiatrist at the Mental Health Department’s Srithanya Hospital.
Later, she spent several years studying at Toronto University in Canada. Currently, she is director of Bangkok Hospital’s Mental Health Rehabilitation and Recovery Centre.
Apisamai has also appeared on television, first as a TV news anchor for Channel 7 and later as a TV show host for iTV (now known as Thai PBS).
Her media experience was seen as the key reason behind her smooth and impressive debut as CCSA assistant spokesperson on January 18.
Apisamai says she met the love of her life, Andrew Melka, by chance on a flight in 2006. After being upgraded from economy to business class on her way to a meeting in Beijing, she ended up sitting next to Melka.
They exchanged polite greetings, but Cupid must have been working overtime because they ended up being seated next to each other again on the flight back to Bangkok.
They began talking and exchanged business cards. Since both worked in the medical field, they had plenty in common.
Melka, who was shifting to Bangkok, kept in touch with Apisamai as he had yet to find friends in Thailand. He hung out with her and discovered they shared other interests apart from work – like diving, travelling, reading, cooking and gardening. They were also well-matched in temperament, both being calm and mature.
Melka said he had no idea he was falling for a beauty queen until his colleagues revealed more about Apisamai’s past. Though his initial reaction was “wow”, he knew he was attracted by her good heart.
Apisamai said they never once quarrelled during the six years they dated, including three years they spent apart while she was studying in Canada.
The couple finally tied the knot in 2012.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk