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Tsewang Yishey Pemba

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 11 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e311
  1. Dechen Pemba

Helped Tibetan refugees fleeing Chinese occupation

“Three years in Lhasa during my adolescence were very happy sunny years, full of the most pleasant memories. What a charming city to live in; willow trees, picnics, flying of kites, watching shows and spectacles, and frolicking in the warm sands close to Dekyi Linga by the banks of the Tsangpo river,” wrote Dr Tsewang Yishey Pemba, who has died aged 79, in the Tibetan Review in 1977. “One day there was a great excitement in our house and we all made ready from early morning to go somewhere. It was only later that I learnt that His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama was being escorted into the city after his discovery in the far East of Tibet.”

Bhutan royal family

Tsewang Yishey Pemba was famed for being the first Tibetan to be trained in Western medicine, and he served as consultant physician to the Bhutan royal family. He helped to found the first hospital in Paro, Bhutan, and in 1967 became the first Tibetan to become a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The rest of his professional life was spent working in India and Bhutan. Pemba is also widely regarded to have written the first work of fiction by a Tibetan in English, Idols on the Path, published in 1966.

Pemba was born in 1932 in Gyantse, …

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