Exploring the Intersection of Tibetan Buddhism and Western Medicine
The mission of the Medicine and Compassion Project is to share the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of training in compassion with the goal of allowing one’s own compassion to become more stable, vast, and effortless.
Dr. Shlim is the author of over forty original research papers, and has written over twenty chapters in textbooks on travel medicine.
He pioneered travel medicine research on travelers’ diarrhea, typhoid fever, hepatitis, altitude illness, trekking deaths, and rabies. He also helped discover the diarrhea causing protozoal pathogen Cyclospora.
Dr. Shlim is the co-author, with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, of Medicine and Compassion, a book that offers advice from a Tibetan Buddhist lama on methods of training in compassion for health care professionals.
Past- President, International Society of Travel Medicine. The ISTM is the preeminent international organization dedicated to travel medicine, with over 3400 members in 85 countries.
Medical Editor, Health Information for International Travel (The Yellow Book). The Yellow Book is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the primary source of information for all travel health practitioners in the United States.
Past Chairman, Teton District Board of Health (2006 to 2016)
President, Rangjung Yeshe Gomde California: A Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and Retreat Center, Leggett, California
Scientific Research Award, International Society of Travel Medicine 1995. Awarded for cumulative contributions to travel medicine research.
Research Award, Wilderness Medical Society, 1996. Awarded for the cumulative contributions to research in the field of wilderness medicine.
Himalayan Rescue Association. Lifetime Contribution Award. Presented by the Prime Minister of Nepal, K.P. Koirala, December 1998.
Paul Auerbach Award, Wilderness Medical Society, 2012. For lifetime contribution to the field of wilderness medicine.
International Society of Travel Medicine
Wilderness Medical Society
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
International Society of Mountain Medicine
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow)
David R. Shlim, M.D. first visited Nepal in 1979 to work as a volunteer doctor for the Himalayan Rescue Association…
After three stints near the base of Mt. Everest, he moved to Kathmandu in 1983 to begin a fifteen-year career as the Medical Director of the CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center in Kathmandu, the world’s busiest destination travel medicine clinic.
He created research programs into the diseases that affect travelers, and has developed an international reputation as one of the most knowledgeable travel medicine doctors in the world. He is the author of more than forty-five original research papers, numerous chapters in textbooks, and is the recent past-president of the International Society of Travel Medicine.
In addition to his travel medicine work in Nepal, he was the head of the Himalayan Rescue Association for more than ten years. He treated all of the survivors of the 1996 Everest expedition that was detailed in Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air.
He provided free medical care for a Tibetan Buddhist monastery for fourteen years, and developed a close relationship with the head of the monastery, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who was recognized as one of the greatest meditation teachers of the twentieth century. He also offered free medical care to the newly arrived Tibetan refugees who came over the high Himalayan passes from Tibet.
He is the co-author, with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, of Medicine and Compassion: An American Doctor and a Tibetan Lama on How to Provide Care with Compassion and Wisdom.
He resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he practices travel medicine and teaches Tibetan Buddhism. He regularly travels around the world to give lectures on travel medicine and medicine and compassion.
Although it’s not possible to cure everyone, or prevent accidents, and diseases entirely, we can try our best to ease the suffering of everyone that we meet.
~ Dr. Shlim
It began in 1985 at Nagi Gompa, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s (Phakchok Rinpoche’s Grandfather) monastery. Dr. Shlim was camping in a tent on the mountain overlooking Kathmandu Valley where the Gompa resides in order to receive some teachings from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Phakchok Rinpoche, who had just recently been recognized as a reincarnate lama, came over to the tent and crawled in. Although he didn’t speak any English, and Dr. Shlim didn’t speak Tibetan, they hung out for a while, long enough to take this photo:
The connection they shared then was brief, but nonetheless served as the starting point for a long and cherished friendship.
Phakchok Rinpoche is part of an incredible family of reincarnate lamas. His father, Chokling Rinpoche, is a reincarnation of a great treasure-revealer from Tibet. His uncle is Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (co-author of Medicine and Compassion), and as said above, his grandfather was Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Dr. Shlim is particularly close to Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and learned how to meditate from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
Phakchok Rinpoche did his training in India. After he received his Khenpo degree (equivalent to a PhD in Buddhist philosophy), he set out to start teaching in the West. One of the first places he taught was Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Dr. Shlim had moved from Nepal a few years earlier. Rinpoche came to Jackson nearly every year after that, teaching retreats to Dr. Shlim’s Tibetan Buddhist students, and giving a series of popular public talks in Jackson. It was after one of these visits that Dr. Shlim approached him to help teach a proposed Medicine and Compassion Retreat at a beautiful ranch near Jackson. He agreed and taught the retreats in 2017 and 2018. His schedule precluded his teaching the retreat in 2019, so the retreat was taught by Lama Oser, a highly knowledgeable monk from Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche’s monastery.
Phakchok Rinpoche remains deeply interested in the Medicine and Compassion Project, and we are hopeful he will teach more retreats in the future. In the meantime, the Medicine and Compassion Teaching Videos we have made from his teachings in the 2017 and 2018 retreats serve as inspiration for people to focus on compassion and how one’s compassion can be trained. Currently, Phakchok Rinpoche has stepped back from teaching in order to focus on some personal retreats, so the videos are of particular value given that he is not available to teach in person.
Teaching & Speaking Engagements
Recent Teaching & Speaking Engagements
- May 2017, The Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine, Barcelona, Spain. Taught a workshop on the prevention of rabies in travelers.
- Toronto, Ontario Canada. June 16-18, 2017. North American Refugee Health Conference. Keynote Address: “A Gentle Rain of Compassion.”
- Medicine and Compassion Retreat in Jackson Hole. October 1st – 6th, 2017.
- Portland, Oregon June 7th-9th, 2018. Keynote Address: Medicine and Compassion.
- Findhorn, Scotland June 29th, 2018. Medicine and Compassion .
- Gomde Scotland June 30th, 2018. Seminar on Medicine and Compassion.
- Doncaster, England July 7th, 2018. Seminar on Medicine and Compassion.
- Medicine and Compassion Retreat in Jackson Hole. October 10th-14th, 2018
- Cape Town, South Africa September 12th -14th, 2018. Lectures on High Altitude Medicine and Medicine and Compassion.
- Galway, Ireland February 6th-8th, 2019. INMED 2019 Health Professions Education: Developing the Whole Person. Keynote Address: “Healthcare and Compassion: Can the capacity for compassion be trained?”
- Napa, California March 22-23, 2019. Travel Medicine and Global Health Conference. Keynote address: “Medicine and Compassion.” Also: “Exotic Vaccines: Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis.”
- Fargo, North Dakota April 9th-10th, 2019. Building Bridges Conference. Keynote Address: “A Gentle Rain of Compassion.”
- Minneapolis, Minnesota April 15th-17th, 2019. Compassionate Care Co-Creation. A Two-Day Seminar sponsored by the American Refugee Committee.
- Providence RI April 26, 2019. Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island Refugee Resettlement Program. Medicine and Compassion lecture and seminar.
- Washington, DC. June 4-9, 2019 International Society of Travel Medicine. “Can Travelers’ Diarrhea be Prevented through Personal Hygiene Precautions?”
- Medicine and Compassion Retreat in Jackson Hole October 2nd to 6th, 2019
- Atlanta, Georgia January 7-10, 2020. The Epidemiology of Compassion and Love. Gave a talk on “The Origin of Compassion.”
- Online, January 18-March 1, 2021. National University of Ireland Galway School of Medicine Elective Course.
- Online, June 3, 2021. Ireland Health Service Executive. Interactive Webinar: Healthcare and Compassion.
- Medicine and Compassion Retreat in Jackson Hole September 22nd to 26th, 2021
If you are interested in booking Dr. Shlim to speak on Medicine and Compassion or travel medicine, please contact him here.