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Yale Global Mental Health Program / Monthly Lecture Series: "Lamas, Doctors, Yogis, and Volunteers: Treating Trauma Among Tibetan Refugees in Northern India"

Goals: To lead an engaged presentation and discussion about: 1) Refugee mental health in a context where mental distress is considered more of a 'spiritual' rather than 'medical' problem. 2) The benefits and limitations of medical humanitarian efforts in treating trauma.     Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this presentation, audience participants will be able to:   1) Identify how Tibetan refugees understand violence and trauma, which differ from North American cultural concepts. 2) Describe key elements of Tibetan idioms of mental distress and salient help-seeking behaviors. 3) Think critically about the role of global mental health care across cultures.   About the presenter:  Sara Lewis is a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Her research interests lie at the intersections of mental health, culture and religion. Sara's dissertation research, funded by Fulbright IIE, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Society for Psychological Anthropology and the Mellon Foundation, involved 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Dharamsala, India, investigating how Buddhism and other sociocultural factors support coping and resilience among Tibetan refugees. She has also served as a co-investigator on several research projects related to mental health and recovery in the United States with the Center to Study Recovery in Social Contexts, an NIMH-funded center at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, and with the California Mental Health Services Authority. Her work has been published in Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry; EthosPsychiatric Services; and Anthropology of Consciousness.   Sara grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY and studied anthropology and psychology as an undergraduate before pursuing a master's degree in social sciences at the University of Chicago. Her thesis was based on ethnographic work in Iquitos, Peru, where she investigated the effects of ayahuasca tourism among foreigners experiencing 'spiritual crises.' Sara stayed on at the University of Chicago to pursue an MSW at the School of Social Service Administration where she focused on the treatment of serious mental illness. Alongside her doctoral studies at Columbia, she worked as a psychotherapist in community mental health. Currently, Sara is teaching meditation to inmates and correctional officers at Rikers Island Prison as part of the Rangjung Prison Dharma Project.


  • Sara Lewis, MD
    PhD Candidate, Medical Anthropology


Free: free
Dec 201312Thursday
5:45 PM7:00 PM
Psychiatry, 9th Floor, Large Conference Room300 George StNew Haven, CT