Ven. Dr.Yeshi Dhonden, personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1960-1980), is a renowned traditional Tibetan Medical doctor and one of the worlds foremost living authorities on Tibetan Medicine. He was born in the Tibetan year of the Fire Rabbit in 1927 to a prosperous farming family in the village of Yamdro in a district called Hlo-go, close to Lhasa, Tibet. At age six his parents sent him to a small monastery comprised of approximately 400 monks. Because of his exceptional abilities in memorization, at age eleven he was sent to Men Tsee Khang the Medical Collage in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. While there, he memorized the four Medical Tantras and then entered into formal training under the director of the college, Venerable Dr. Kyen-rab Nor-bu (b 1883-1962), who served as personal physician to both H.H. the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas.
Dr. Dhonden began his medical practice in 1951, returning to his home district and developing a high reputation for his great skill. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled from the Chinese Communists in 1959, Dr. Dhonden also decided to leave Tibet for India where he began treating Tibetan Refugees.
In 1960, at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Dhonden was appointed to be his personal physician and he moved to Dharamsala. There he also took on the challenge of founding Men Tsee Khang, the Tibetan Medical College. He was both Director and principal teacher until 1979.
In the mid -70′s, Dr. Dhonden was invited to the University of Virginia for the purpose of lecturing about Tibetan Medicine. Sitting in on the series, one of the university’s research professors was so impressed upon hearing Dr. Dhonden that he asked Dr. Dhonden to join him in conducting a laboratory study using Tibetan Medicine to treat mice with sarcoma. The fact that the information they discovered through this study could help a multitude of people encouraged him to proceed. Dr. Lobsang Tenzin, working for years with Dr. Dhonden as a Tibetan pharmacologist, and Professor Jeffery Hopkins, translator, completed the Tibetan team.
The outcome was big. It showed that the response of the mice to the Tibetan formulas was equal to chemotherapy and appeared to be without side effects. However, the results of the study were never published by the university. Because the professor did not judge the results important, this discovery went unknown.
Over the last 50 years, Dr. Dhonden has successfully treated patients with all kinds of maladies. One of his specialties is cancer. He has treated thousands of cancer patients from all over the world, including women with breast cancer The rate of survival for people treated with ancient Tibetan herbal therapies with or without adjunct Western cancer treatments appears to be much higher than those receiving allopathic cancer treatments alone.
Unfortunately, Tibetan Medicine is still virtually unknown in the West, where the cancer epidemic is out of control. In1994, upon meeting Dr. Helene Smith, renown cancer researcher, genealogist, and director of California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and Dr. Debashish Triipathy, University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Dhonden, along with Marsha Woolf, director of Menla Tibetan Medical Institute, agreed to collaborate on the first formal FDA approved Phase I/II study in the world.
The study would assess the efficacy of Tibetan Medicine in the treatment of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. As the chief medical advisor of Menla Tibetan Medical Institute, an initiative operating under the auspices of the non-profit organization, Alternative Resources Unlimited, he agreed to become the chief Tibetan Medical advisor of the study. The rest of the Tibetan team were Dr. Lobsang Tenzin, chief Tibetan Medical pharmacologist, Marsha Woolf, who acted as collaborator, liason, coauthor, and clinical director of the trial for the Tibetan team, B. Allan Wallace, formal translator for the team, and Ms. Kalsang Dolma, clinical and personal translator for the team.
In order to carry out the human research, the study was preceded by a mice study on breast cancer using Tibetan herbal formulas. The outcome of the mice study proved non- toxicity, as well as promising results. Therefore, the human study could proceed.
It was the objective of Dr. Dhonden and the Menla Tibetan Medical Institute, to prove these results in human, scientifically conducted, clinical trials. Their primary goal was to prove that these Tibetan formulas were safe and non toxic. Also, another primary goal was to show that Tibetan Medicine could, at the very least, extend life and reduce suffering of terminal patients, and, in fact, show a clinical improvement and response to the formulas and even remission.
While the study was small, the team worked tirelessly. The outcome proved non-toxicity and enough of a response to warrant a larger study, funding still pending.
Following the team for a year, Dateline NBC, in collaboration with Marsha Woolf, produced an awards winning documentary of the study that aired on January 1, 2000.
With undaunted dedication, Dr. Yeshi Dhonden has been a pioneer bringing world awareness of this very sophisticated, powerful and effective approach to healing to the West.
Biography and Photo of Dr.Yeshi Dhonden by Marsha Woolf. All rights reserved.
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