A Doctor in Little Lhasa: One Year in Dharamsala by Timothy Holtz - Dog Ear Publishing A Doctor in Little Lhasa: One Year in Dharamsala by Timothy Holtz - Dog Ear Publishing
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BUY A Doctor in Little Lhasa: One Year in Dharamsala  by Timothy Holtz

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ISBN: 978-159858-883-5
232 pages

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A young public health doctor's year-long experience in northern India providing medical care for a Tibetan community living in exile leads to life lessons in compassion, generosity, and patience. As a young physician in training, Timothy yearns to make a difference in the world. While working at a U.S. community clinic, he encounters the health problems of refugees who had fled their countries’ human rights abuses. He soon realizes that his passion is to live abroad and serve a community as a physician. Following his formal medical training, Timothy lives for a year in Dharamsala, the “Peaceful Resting Place,” home of the Dalai Lama in northern India. Working alongside other volunteer colleagues, Timothy’s journey leads to the joy and anxiety of delivering babies by candlelight, the sorrow of tending to dying children who have suffered terrible falls, the frustrations of treating drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the challenges and rewards of delivering preventive health messages to newly arriving refugees from Tibet.

Dharamsala is a peaceful but bustling little town. The former British hill station is now the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Over 10,000 Tibetans live in Dharamsala and the surrounding settlements, with thousands of new refugees fleeing persecution arriving every year. For one year, Timothy lives and works at Delek Hospital, founded in 1971 to serve the Tibetan refugee population. In an environment where even electricity can’t be taken for granted, he must learn to hone his diagnostic skills instead of relying on high-tech tests, and find a way not only to help but also to leave behind something of benefit that will last beyond his time there. He soon finds that the 35-bed hospital is continually full of sick Tibetans and local Indians, as well as tourists who fall prey to the many tropical diseases that the Indian subcontinent dishes out. The patients and stories he encounters are inspiring, and the resilience and tenacity of Tibetans is humbling to witness firsthand. The Tibetan strength of spirit is most evident in the torture survivors that he meets and whose stories he documents. By documenting and publicizing the mental health needs of a group of Tibetan nuns who had been tortured in Tibet, he ensures that they will receive adequate care in the future. And he learns some sobering and important lessons as a physician: that knowledge about health and sickness is not always enough to prevent illness. For a dutiful physician treating the sick, the key is not to rush to conclusions or order a battery of tests, but to take the time to listen to patients and take into account the context of their symptoms. Timothy also discovers that a physician might be able to relieve the superficial afflictions of this life, but the deeper suffering that people carry with them takes far longer to heal. Ultimately the struggle of exiled Tibetans for improved health and recognition of their fundamental human rights becomes his own.





Required reading for students searching for a connection between medical training and social justice. Timothy Holtz’s intimate recounting of a year spent serving Tibetan refugees in India describes his struggles with being unable, as one young physician with only a year to spend, to fix the many wrongs he witnessed. Holtz concludes that “practicing good medicine—whether in a modern city or an impoverished refugee community—is far more complex than opening up a magic bag and handing out its contents.” Although Holtz may not be aware of it, his memoir is a testament to the fact that he did in fact learn to practice good medicine, and he has been at it ever since. His year in “Little Lhasa” led Holtz to deepen his understanding not only of clinical medicine, but of the social roots of disease and of the indivisibility of health and human rights, broadly conceived. Students and practitioners alike will find this book inspiring.

— Paul E. Farmer, Presley Professor, Harvard Medical School;
and Co-founder, Partners in Health

Timothy Holtz’s account is no romance about the joys of practicing medicine among Tibetan exiles in northern India. It is rather about people’s suffering from diseases that should easily be prevented, a doctor’s efforts to provide good care without the resources he should have, and a community’s struggles to cope with the consequences of torture. Even more important for the practice of medicine, it is a story of how a doctor’s duty to take care of patients is quite inseparable from seeking to protect their human rights.

— Len Rubenstein, Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights

Open this book to find a wonderful story about a transformative journey for a young physician. Timothy Holtz went to India with a purpose, to help Tibetan refugees in their struggle for a better life and better health. Little did he know how much his year working in a small hospital with few resources would change the
trajectory of his life. Filled with stories that are both compassionate and humbling, it reminds us all that changing the world happens one person at a time.

— Zorba Paster, Professor of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; and Author of The Longevity Code —
Your Personal Prescription for a Longer Sweeter Life

In this warm and sensitive memoir, Timothy Holtz portrays the challenges confronting the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala as it struggles to preserve its culture and traditions. In recounting heart-warming stories of illness and healing, Holtz also reveals his own personal path of growth and discovery as a physician. The episodes he tells are sobering, but also inspiring, such as fighting drug-resistant tuberculosis in newly arrived refugees, and assisting nuns who survived torture in their native Tibet only to face the hardships of an unfamiliar country. I recommend this book for anyone interested in better understanding the lives of Tibetans in exile, as they fight to survive and to safeguard their traditional culture and human dignity. 

— Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Director, Emory-Tibet Partnership;
and Spiritual Director, Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

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