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WEBINAR – Tibetan and Himalayan Communities in a Covid-19 World

July 12 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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Weatherhead East Asian Institute

Please join us for a lecture with:

Sienna Craig, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Pema Dorjee, President, Tibetan Nurses Association, New York

Nawang Tsering Gurung, Endangered Language Alliance, Independent Scholar, New York

Konchog Tseten, Tibetan medical doctor; Adjunct Lecturer in Tibetan, EALAC, Columbia University

Sangey Tashi, Program Director, Tibetan Community Health Network, New York

Pema Bhum, Director, Latse; Adjunct Lecturer in Tibetan, EALAC, Columbia University

Moderated by:

Palden Gyaldoctoral student in Sino-Tibetan history and Tibetan Buddhism, EALAC, Columbia University


Since March 2020, New York City has been the global epicenter of the covid-19 pandemic. Within New York City, the central Queens neighborhoods of Corona, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst have been the “epicenter of the epicenter” with at least 11,000 cases and hundreds of fatalities. These neighborhoods are home to one of the largest North American immigrant communities of people coming from Tibetan and Himalayan regions.

During this time of crisis, the Tibetan and Himalayan communities in New York have come together to support each other as well as the greater New York community through their work as frontline workers and disseminating critical supplies and information. Yet in spite of being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, their contributions and experiences remain little known. This event brings together Tibetan health care workers, traditional medical practitioners, medical anthropologists, and grassroots researchers to highlight the responses and experiences among Tibetan and Himalayan community members in New York City as well as some responses on the Tibetan Plateau. Sienna Craig, a medical anthropologist specializing in Tibetan medicine, will discuss some current projects documenting Tibetan responses to covid-19 and will engage the panelists in a discussion.

Pema Dorjee, the President of the Tibetan Nurses Association (TNA), which has been particularly active in raising funds to provide PPE for frontline healthcare workers in New York, will discuss the services TNA has been providing during the pandemic.

Nawang Tsering Gurung, a community activist, will share stories about how the Himalayan community has been supporting the five boroughs.

Konchog Tseten, a Tibetan medical doctor based in Queens, will discuss his work treating patients during the pandemic.

Sangey Tashi, a public health educator in New York, will talk about his work disseminating Tibetan public health messages for plateau communities.

Pema Bhum will share covid-related poems and stories from the Tibetan Plateau.


Sienna R. Craig is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College (PhD Cornell University, 2006). A medical and cultural anthropologist, Craig is the author of The Ends of Kinship: Connecting Himalayan Lives between Nepal and New York (University of Washington Press, forthcoming 2020), Mustang in Black and White (with Kevin Bubriski, Vajra Publications, 2018), Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine (UC Press, 2012), Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage through the Himalaya (Wisdom Publications, 2008), and the co-editor of Medicine Between Science and Religion: Explorations on Tibetan Grounds (Berghahn Books, 2010), among other publications. Craig enjoys writing across genres, from literary ethnography and interdisciplinary social science research to creative nonfiction, fiction, children’s literature, and poetry. From 2012-2017 Craig was the co-editor of HIMALAYA, Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies. Since 2009, she has served as a member of the Executive Council of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM).

Pema Dorjee is President of the Tibetan Nurse Association (TNA), a non profit organization founded by nurses from Bellevue Hospital in New York. The purpose of this organization is to help nurses who graduated from India, Nepal, and the US get credentials evaluation services, licensing in different states, find jobs, and also help Tibetan, Nepali, and other Himalayan communities through different health-related awareness programs. Pema Dorjee works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New York.

Nawang Tsering Gurung is an independent researcher and community activist, who works with local Himalayan communities and scholars to document languages, culture, social histories, and histories of migration. Gurung was born in Ghiling, Mustang, pursued studies in Nepal and Boston, and is now located in New York City. He has worked for many projects and organizations such as the New York Tibetan Service Center (NYTSC) and Voices of the Himalayas/ELA. He is widely published on the topic of his native culture, works as a translator, has been involved in documentaries, and organizes cultural tours. Currently he serves as an advisory council for Rubin Museum.

Menpa (Tibetan medical doctor) Konchog Tseten‘s education spans all of Tibet’s traditional healing modalities. During his M.A. in Tibetan Medicine at Qinghai Medical College (China), he was trained in the traditional Tibetan medical texts by Drs. Yunying and Tamdringya, Geshi Jiumey Tsodri, Lama Jamyang, Menpa Jiumey Rangdrol, and Ake Tenko. Menpa Kunchog did his two-year apprenticeship at the Henan Mongolian and Tibetan Hospital (Henan County, Qinghai Province, China) under the supervision of Dr. Tsedra. Menpa Konchog also completed a Masters of Tibetan Medicine at Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, as well as multiple shorter apprenticeships with other esteemed practitioners of Tibetan medicine. Since his arrival in the United States, Menpa Kunchog has supplemented and expanded this extensive training with a masters degree in acupuncture and other disciplines from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (New York). He is also a lecturer at Columbia University, where he teaches classes on classical Tibetan language.

Sangey Tashi attended high school in the TCV School system in India and then joined Sarah College of Higher Tibetan Studies near Dharamsala where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Tibetan Studies. Sangey then worked as the managing editor of the Tibetan Science Journal at Library of Tibetan Works & Archives’ Science Department from 2006 to 2010. In 2010, Emory University invited him to come to the States to work on translation of science and Buddhism translation as part of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative from 2010 through 2013. In 2013, Sangey Tashi moved to New York, where he began studies at the City University of New York at Hunter. There he earned his Associate of Arts Degree in Mental Health and Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban Public Health. In 2017, Sangey Tashi has worked as Care Manager for the private agency CareDesign NY, to assess, develop, implement and evaluate treatment plans for populations with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sangey Tashi now works at AHRC-NYC as a Field Supervisor and manages and oversees the performance of Residential Habilitation Counselors executing service plans for people with I/DD.

Pema Bhum is Director of the Latse Contemporary Tibetan Cultural Library in New York City, which is a project of the Trace Foundation, where he has worked since 1997. He holds an M.A. in Tibetan Studies from the Northwest Nationalities Institute in Lanzhou, Gansu Province (PRC), where he also taught Tibetan language and literature. After his arrival in India in 1988, he founded the first independent Tibetan language newspaper in exile, Dmangs-gtso, and the Tibetan literary magazine, Ljang-gzhon. From 1992-1996, he served as founding director of the Amnye Machen Institute in Dharamsala, India, and for two years taught Tibetan language and literature at Indiana University. He is author of two memoirs of the Cultural Revolution — Six Stars with a Crooked Neck (2001), and Dran tho rdo ring ma (2006)–as well as Heartbeat of a New Generation, now translated into three languages. He has also authored several articles, the most recent of which are published in issues of the Latse Library Newsletter.

This is a Weatherhead East Asian Institute Lectures and Panels event.



July 12, 2020

2:00 PM EST



Register here.

A Zoom invitation will be sent to those who register.



Cosponsors: Modern Tibetan Studies Program


July 12
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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