4-Year Onsite & Online Menpa Certification

Program Overview 

The mission of the Shang Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies is to deepen the knowledge and understanding of Tibetan cultural traditions in order to contribute to their survival and preservation. To this end, we are pleased to present the first English language, four-year training in Tibetan medicine in the West to offer the same curriculum as traditional medical schools in Tibet and India. 

The curriculum is based on the Gyud Zhi, the four primary Tibetan Healing Science Texts, which are used in all traditional schools of Tibetan Medicine. Regular class lectures cover the texts’ main topics, including general healthcare, woman’s health, pediatrics, toxicology, injuries, provocations, geriatrics, and fertility. Diagnostic methods of consultation, pulse reading, and urine analysis, as well as treatment methods including diet, lifestyle, herbal preparations, and external therapies are taught in both theoretical lectures and practical labs. Supplementary topics include Tibetan language, Astrology, Kunye Therapy, Ethics and History of Tibetan Culture and Medical Practice. Prominent Tibetan physicians lead this unique curriculum. 

At the Shang Shung Institute’s School of Tibetan Medicine, students immerse themselves in the fascinating study of Tibet’s ancient healing arts. Students enjoy small classes led by distinguished Tibetan physicians of renowned medical lineage. This rare opportunity to study the full scope of Tibetan Medical practice offers students the possibility of becoming some of the first Tibetan doctors trained in the West. 

Traditional Tibetan Medicine

With a history going back over 2,500 years, traditional Tibetan medicine is one of the oldest continuously practiced healing systems on Earth. Regarded as science, art, and philosophy, Tibetan Medicine is an ancient form of holistic heath care indigenous to the Tibetan people, and as such it integrates the core Buddhist principles of altruism, karma, and ethics. Over thousands of years this native Tibetan science synthesized with accumulated knowledge from China, Persia, India, and Greece. Since this time it has been practiced continuously throughout Tibet, the Himalayan regions, India, Mongolia, and Siberia, as well as in the Western world.

Shang Shung Institute School of Tibetan Medicine Curriculum

Each semester of the four-year curriculum focuses on the core foundation studies based on the topics of the Four Tantras as well as Tibetan language studies. Students in the Shang Shung Institute School of Tibetan Medicine can expect to receive training that covers all the major topics presented in any Tibetan or Indian course of Tibetan Medical study. For those students who complete the first eight semesters online and the intensive practical trainings, an optional internship at the Northeast Traditional Tibetan Hospital in Qinghai, China will be available at the conclusion of their studies. 

The Shang Shung program offers eight consecutive semesters. There are no electives or part/time study options in the Tibetan Medicine four-year program and students are expected to participate in all aspects covering each semester’s topics

Tibetan Medicine Program Outline by Semester 

First Semester

Core Foundation Studies
* Tibetan Medical History 
* Tibetan Medicine Root Tantra 
* Tibetan Anatomy & Physiology 
* Ethical Conduct of a Tibetan Doctor 

Complementary Studies 
* Tibetan Language Studies I 

Second Semester

Core Foundation Studies
* Etiology of Illness and Causes of Diseases 
* Methods of Treatment 
* Preventative Medicine 
* Diagnostics I 

 Complementary Studies 
* Tibetan Language Studies II 

Third Semester

Core Foundation Studies
* External Therapies 
* Diagnostics II 

Complementary Studies
* Tibetan Language Studies III 

Fourth Semester

Core Foundation Studies
* Expurgation 
* Tibetan Pharmacology 
* Three Nyepas (Humors) 

 Complementary Studies
* Tibetan Language Studies IV 

Fifth Semester

 Core Foundation Studies
* Treating Illnesses of the Torso 
* Heat disorders 
Complementary Studies
* Tibetan Language Studies V 

Sixth Semester

Core Foundation Studies * Common Diseases 
* Wounds 
* Tibetan Pediatrics 
* Illnesses of the Upper Body  Complementary Studies * Tibetan Language Studies VI 

Seventh Semester

Core Foundation Studies * Provocative Diseases 
* Poison or Toxic Diseases 
* Conclusion of the Tantras 
* Tibetan Gynecology 

Complementary Studies
* Tibetan Language Studies VII 

Eighth Semester

Core Foundation Studies
* Tibetan Pathology 

Complementary Studies
* Tibetan Language Studies VIII 
* Four-month internship at the Northeast Traditional Tibetan Hospital in Qinghai, China

Class Descriptions 

Core Foundation Studies
The core foundation studies include the major topics presented in the Four Tantras,
which form the theoretical basis for the practice of Tibetan medicine. Each semester, several of these topics will be introduced. Students gradually build their knowledge base through the systematic examination and integration of the material as it has been taught for centuries. 

Tibetan Medical History 
Among the five sciences found in the Tibetan canon (Language, Logic, Medicine, Arts and Crafts, & Religious Philosophy), the Tibetan science of healing is considered the most important. It contains knowledge compiled and disseminated since antiquity by the Tibetan people. One of the oldest continuously applied healing systems on the planet, Tibetan Medicine remains a vital and living tradition. 

Evolving over many centuries, Tibetan healers gradually created new techniques for protecting life, which increased the productive work and happiness of individuals, and treated illness. Students will be introduced to the historical origin and developments of the Tibetan medical tradition, with an emphasis on how the key topics evolved to their present stage. 

Tibetan Medicine Root Tantra
For centuries the Root Tantra has been the essential foundation for all Tibetan medical studies. This text clearly introduces all the major topics of the traditional Tibetan science of healing. By learning the essential topics covered in the Root Tantra, students are able to fully prepare to integrate the knowledge of each area in greater depth as these topics are presented in a systematic order throughout their course of study. 

Tibetan Anatomy & Physiology 
The study of Tibetan Anatomy and Physiology covers the formation of the body from conception to death. Students will be introduced systematically to this entire sequence from the initial stages of conception, how the body exists during one’s life, to how it is harmed and perishes in the end. The principles of human conception, stages of development, the shape and interconnection of normal components, the secondary causes, the principles of the appearance of longevity, life energy, and nature are among the aspects covered in this course. 

Ethical Conduct of a Tibetan Doctor
This topic of study instills an understanding of the requirements that are necessary for a practitioner of Tibetan medicine from a traditional perspective. Among the topics covered are standards, the responsibilities and commitments that are necessary to maintain these standards, the activities and obligations that must be accomplished, the result of the attainments, and the position the practitioner of Tibetan medicine holds in relation to their patients. 

Etiology of Illness and Causes of Diseases
This topic of study will show the complete stages of the development of illness in general, i.e. the characteristics of the cause and condition of the producing illness in the constitution of a human being; the way illnesses begin, the nature of becoming an illness, the indications of a manifesting illness, and the categorization of types of disease.

Methods of Treatment
This is the study of specific treatment protocols. In this course we learn the appropriate treatment methods according to the class of illness, the stage of diagnosis, and the situation of the particular disease.

Preventative Medicine 
“Living for a long while without illness” is the knowledge of how to protect wellbeing and benefit a person’s life by preventing the occurrence and development of illness in a person’s constitution. Preventative medicine includes two sections, diet and behavior, as key factors in the promotion of health. 

Diagnostics I 
Students will be introduced to the practical theory of investigating and examining the basis of an illness through the three primary components of diagnosis in the Tibetan tradition: pulse analysis, urinalysis, and diagnostic interview.

External Therapies
The external therapies are among the four principle treatments in Tibetan medicine (diet, behavior, herbs, and external therapies). External therapies include both strong and gentle applications of a variety of techniques that include moxibustion, compresses, medicinal bath, medicinal poultices, and massage. 

Diagnostics II 
Diagnostics II is a continuation of Diagnostics I covering more advanced techniques. 

The topic of expurgation is the study of when to apply various methods of purgation, including enemas, laxatives, and emetics, in the treatment of phlegm, bile, and wind disorders in order to achieve greater health and balance. 

Tibetan Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the training and introduction of administering medicinal herbs for the human body covering the basic principles of preparing these according to a typology of taste and the effects of medicinal substances.

Three Nyepas (Humors) 
The three humors are agents that are primarily responsible for the origin; duration and perishing of the human body that is the basis of Tibetan medicine. The humors-- wind, bile and phlegm are the cause and condition for illness, and transform into illness. This is the study that introduces in detail and clearly indicates the properties of the symptoms of diseases, the principles of their manifestation, examination, and administration of medicine according to the three humors.

Treating Illnesses of the Torso
In this course we study of the causes and condition of the general classes of diseases belonging to the torso, including the inner organs. Symptoms, the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, and treatment methods are covered.

Heat Disorders
In this course we study of the causes and condition of those general classes of diseases belonging to heat. Topics covered include symptoms, the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, and treatment methods.

Common Diseases
Common diseases cover the study of the causes and condition of those miscellaneous illnesses that are commonly encountered. Students will be introduced to the symptoms, principles of manifestation of particular common illnesses, their diagnosis, and administration of medicine and treatments. 

The study of wounds relates to external and internal injuries caused by accidents, weapons, or otherwise wounds that appear from disturbances of the humors and how to examine, diagnose and treat them.

Tibetan Pediatrics
Pediatrics covers the study of the special features and issues of newborn infants and children, with attention to methods of how to protect their well-being. As with other topics, students will be introduced to the primary causes and condition of illnesses associated with the newborn infant; symptoms; the principles of manifestation; diagnosis; and administration of medicine and treatments.

Illnesses of the Upper Body
Illnesses of the upper body cover the study of the causes and condition of those general classes of diseases belonging to the upper body, including the sense organs and head, and when they occur; symptoms; the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, and administration of medicine and treatments.

Provocative Diseases
In the Tibetan tradition, environmental factors and energies are perceived as impacting the wellbeing of individuals.  In the topic of provocations students will study how particular places, seasons, and conditions of the classes of extraordinary diseases emerge when energetic forces that cannot be directly seen to be causes of illness nevertheless cause illness. Students will be introduced to the symptoms, the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, administration of medicine and treatments
in such circumstances.  

Poison or Toxic Diseases
This is the study of different types of poisons, the causes and conditions of being poisoned and the nature of prepared poisons, and the division of illnesses from poison, and symptoms, the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, administration of medicine and treatments.

Conclusion of the Tantras
All of these topics constitute an exhaustive presentation of the whole of Tibetan Medicine, and together with instruction and practical advice. After taking this course, the student will be trained in the entire field of Tibetan medicine from beginning to end as traditionally presented in the Four Tantras.

Tibetan Gynecology
Gynecology covers the study of the special features how women’s illnesses occur, the causes and condition of those illnesses; symptoms; the principles of manifestation, diagnosis, administration of medicine and so on. Students will be introduced to the study of illnesses connected with female genitalia and various treatments proscribed in the treating these disorders according to the Tibetan tradition. 

Tibetan Pathology
This topic of study will indicate the complete stages of the development of illness according to the Tibetan tradition, i.e. the characteristics of the cause and condition of the producing illness in the constitution of a human being; how illness manifests, the origins of an illness, the indications of a manifesting illness, and the general classification of diseases.

Complimentary Studies I-VII Descriptions

Tibetan Language 
Although the four-year program is presented entirely in English, students need to acquire basic reading, writing, and listening skills in the Tibetan language in order to refer to the huge body of literature on Tibetan medicine, as yet untranslated, as well as the primary texts used in the program. The Tibetan language is unrivaled for its sophisticated and subtle contexts in relating nuances of physical and mental harmony or disharmony. 

Knowledge of the original language of Tibetan medicine will enable students in the program to better grasp the complex terminology and contextual meanings. Beginning with the basics of the Tibetan alphabet and grammar, students are gradually introduced to relevant texts by their third semester as they progress in their ability to translate from Tibetan to English.  A basic competency of the language will allow students to become life long scholars in the field and prepare for their studies abroad during the optional 

Faculty Biographies

Resident Teacher and Director

Menpa (Dr.) Phuntsog Wangmo received her advanced degree from the Lhasa University School of Traditional Medicine in 1988 where she also served a two-year residency after completing her five-year training program (1983-1990). During that time she studied with the Khenpos Troru Tsenam and Gyaltsen, two of Tibet's foremost doctors who are credited with the revival of Tibetan Medicine within Tibet under the Chinese. Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo had the exceptional opportunity of extensive clinical training under Khenpo Troru Tsenam for four years. Thereafter, she dedicated many years of work as a doctor in Eastern Tibet where she collaborated and directed the implementation of  A.S.I.A. the non-profit organization founded by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. Since that time, she has worked on behalf of A.S.I.A. setting up hospitals and training centers in the remote regions of Sichuan Province and Chamdo Prefecture. 

From 1996-present, she has been the A.S.I.A. project coordinator in Tibet for the development of Gamthog Hospital in collaboration with expatriate personnel as well as the overall health coordinator and practitioner of traditional Tibetan medicine supervising health activities through out the surrounding region of Chamdo Prefecture. Prior to 1996, she was on the faculty of Shang Shung Institute in Italy where she gave numerous seminars and conference presentations on Tibetan medicine.  Dr. Wangmo remains in residence at the Shang Shung Institute in America where she is the director of the Institute's Traditional Tibetan Medicine Program.

Past Affiliate and Guest Lecturers

Menpa (Dr.) Tashi Dorjee was born in Kathmandu, Nepal in May 23, 1978. He hails from a family of Tibetan medicine practitioners. He had an early exposure to Tibetan Medicine with his maternal grandfather who was a famous Tibetan Doctor and spiritual practitioner from southwest Tibet. His late grandfather received all his teachings and knowledge on medical, astrology and spirituality from Dakar (brag-dear) Rinpoche from Dakar Taso. Dr. Tashi Dorjee attended schools in Kathmandu and Mussoorie in Uttaranchal, India. After his twelve years of schooling in 1997 he attended Tibetan Medical and Astro. College in Dharamsala, India. Here, besides his major in Tibetan Medicine he also studied Astrology, poetry, grammar and Buddhist philosophy. He graduated from TMAI after completing one year internship at Hunsur and Salugara Branch clinic in India in 2002.

Work Experience:
Served as a resident doctor at the branch clinics of Men-Tsee-Khang, Boudhanath, Kathmandu in 2002 and 2004, Tashi Palkhiel and Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Settlement camp, Pokhara in 2005 and
 Chetrapati branch clinic in 2006. The job mainly carries responsibility of consultation, diagnosis and prescribing drugs and giving advice on diet and lifestyle to patients according to Tibetan Medicine and following up with them. He was a visiting doctor at the Sorig Meditation and Healing Center, Riga, Latvia in 2006 and 2007 for seminar, lectures and consultation. 

Menpa (Dr.) Tenzin Dakpa was born March 15, 1963, in Shimla, H.P. India.  He completed his early schooling at Central School for Tibetans in Shimla and spent one year in Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, Varanasi, India.  He joined Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of His Holiness the Dalai Lama College, in 1987 where he graduated first in his class in 1991.  Thereafter, he served as the Resident Doctor of the Nizamuddin Branch Clinic in New Delhi, India in 1992 and in Pokhara, Nepal in 1993 and 1994.

Dr. Dakpa was then transferred to Men-Tsee-Khang Headquarters in Dharmasala.  There he served as a Special Technical Assistant to the Director and was a member and Secretary to the High Level Tibetan Medical and Astrological Committee.  In the same period, he also worked as a lecturer at the Tibetan Medical and Astrological College and was the Editor-in-Chief of the sMan-rTsis Jjournal.  He has visited Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Japan for seminars, conferences, medical consultations, and lectures with late Dr. Tenzin Chödrak, the senior personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Dakpa attended the Third World Congress on Medical Acupuncture & Natural Medicine in Edmonton, Canada and the “Founding Celebration” of the International Peace University in Berlin, Germany in 1995. 

He is co-author of the Fundamentals of Tibetan Medicine published by Men-Tsee-Khang in India in 2001.  He is also an author of Tibetan Medicine – Part One: History, Principles and Methodology and Part Two: Tibetan Materia Medica and its Application in Chronic Ailments in Principles of Integrated Medicine published by Tata Mcgraw-Hill Publishing co. Ltd., New Delhi, India and the Science of Healing: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Root Tantra and Diagnostic Techniques of Tibetan Medicine. He was a Resident Tibetan Health Advisor at the Medicine Buddha Healing Center in Spring Green, WI, and the Research Scholar in Alternative Medicine and an Honorary Fellow of the Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, and the Tibetan Medicine Program Coordinator of Tibet Center, Chicago, IL.

At the age of 20 Menpa (Dr.) Yang Ga enrolled in the Department of Tibetan Medicine at the Tibet University in Lhasa, where he studied Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan Medicine, Astrology, Grammar, Poetry, and History, as well as Sanskrit. He studied with the late Khenpo Tsenam, the late Khenpo Tsultrim Gyaltsen, Professor Champa Triles, Professor Gojo Wangdu, and the late professor Samten. In 1991, he graduated from Tibet University. Upon graduation, Khenpo Tsenam, the vice president, appointed him as a teacher of Tibetan medicine at the college. From 1997 to 2000 he was Deputy Director of the Office of Basic Tibetan medicine, and from 2000 to 2003 he served as the Deputy Dean of Admissions. 

In September, 1999, Dr. Yang Ga became one of the first students to begin a Masters Degree in Tibetan medicine. In 2002, under Khenpo Tsenam’s supervision, he finished his thesis and received his Masters. In 2003, Dr. Yang Ga helped write a textbook for the undergraduate study of Tibetan medicine, which has subsequently been used by all of the Tibetan medical colleges in the P.R. of China. In 2002, Dr. Yang Ga was accepted as a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Under professor Van der Kuijp’s supervision, he taught a course on the history of Tibetan medicine in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. In September, 2003, he enrolled in Harvard University, and in 2010 he completed his PhD in the department of Inner Asian and Altaic Studies.

Menpa (Dr.) Kunchok Gyaltsen was ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in 1981 at Kumbum Monastery in Amdo Province, now P.R. China. Kunchok Gyaltsen was instructed in both the Tibetan Medicine Teaching Lineage and the Medicine Buddha Initiation Lineage under the hospital’s founder, Tashi Rinpoche, and two of Tibet’s most senior physicians at that time, Aku Ngakwan Tenzin and Kanpo Toru Tsenam. 

Dr. Gyaltsen recently completed his PhD at the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles. He has lectured and published widely in the U.S. and elsewhere on the holistic approach of Traditional Tibetan Medicine, integrating his knowledge of medical theory, history, cosmology, art, religion, philosophy and spirit. As a Buddhist monk, Kunchok Gyaltsen’s life vocation is to benefit others; his life’s work as a practicing doctor, administrator, teacher and author of this rare wisdom tradition upholds this altruistic aspiration.