The health clinic at Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute (DKCLI) in Chauntra, India, was founded in 2006 with continuing assistance from KF. The free clinic provides essential primary and preventive healthcare for the approximately 450 monks at DKCLI.

DKCLI is two hours from the nearest public hospital and 30 minutes from a respected doctor. Taxis to receive medical care outside the monastery are expensive, as is outside care itself (even though the clinic pays half the bill), and bus travel is notoriously difficult.

Staff at the DKCLI clinic routinely treats digestive and upper respiratory symptoms, tests and vaccinates for hepatitis B, screens for tuberculosis, and offers education in nutrition and hygiene. A Tibetan nurse, Lahmo Dolma, treats patients six days a week; an in-charge monk, Rinchen Tashi, is on call for emergencies when the nurse is not available; and Dr. Jatindar Kumar sees patients for two hours at a time, two days a week. Nurse Lahmo often cares for 25 patients a day, and the doctor treats 40 to 50 during his visits. The clinic offers antibiotics sparingly and more affordable Tibetan medicine is used for most illnesses.

Nurse Lahmo considers the clinic “the best in the area when accommodation and budget are taken into account. We are able to treat many problems and have a good store of medicine.” Nurse Lahmo, originally from Tibet, has worked at the clinic since completing her nursing education in 2010. Rinchen Tashi, the clinic in-charge, said, “I like helping patients. I have seen patients in other clinics and hospitals who don’t have any help, and it is very difficult for them. I like doing this job. I’m trying to learn about medicine and different illnesses.”

Although the monk in the role of clinic in-charge changes every year, and medical training for the position is limited to what the nurse gives the monk on site, the other monks trust and rely on the in-charge’s advice. Both the in-charge and the nurse suggested that it would benefit the monastery if a monk received basic medical training at the Dharamsala Delek Hospital for three to six months before beginning his clinic position. They would also like access to an ambulance for emergencies and at night, when taxis aren’t available.

Part of the clinic’s mission is to gather health status information to improve overall monastic wellness. With that in mind, tuberculosis and hepatitis B are monitored, both to assess their prevalence and to provide effective care. This year, two monks with tuberculosis received treatment at the highly regarded Delek Hospital in Dharamsala, under the care of a Tibetan doctor.  Twenty-three DKCLI monks with hepatitis B are taking Tibetan medicine and will receive liver function tests to determine whether they need additional treatment. This year, Nurse Lahmo arranged for an Indian NGO in the area to come to the monastery to screen for hepatitis B free of charge. The clinic had last tested for the disease in 2006, and this year only three new cases were reported out of the 300 monks screened.

According to a patient, “It’s good to have the clinic in the monastery. The staff are very gentle and caring. They speak very calmly and take the time to really help. If the clinic cannot provide what’s needed, the staff make arrangements with other clinics and accompany the patient in emergencies, to assist with translation and other support.”

DKCLI’s clinic plans to expand its reach to Chauntra’s residents to serve the broader community.