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The Rubin Research

For the second week of The Rubin Daily Offering, Tibetan medicine doctor and biocultural anthropologist Dr. Tawni Tidwell joins Curator of Himalayan Art Elena Pakhoutova to explore Tibetan medical thankgas in the Rubin Museum collection and offer practices to keep bodies in balance during times of distress.

In the first episode of the week, Elena Pakhoutova introduces us to a vibrant depiction of the Medicine Buddha Palace. Then Dr. Tidwell shares how everything around us can be a medicine and suggests healthful tips to incorporate into our daily routines.


Dr. Tawni Tidwell is a biocultural anthropologist (PhD, Emory University) and a Tibetan medical doctor (“amchi”/“menpa” Kachupa level), the first Westerner to have formally completed her Tibetan medical education in a Tibetan institution alongside Tibetan peers. Dr. Tidwell trained at Men-Tsee-Khang in north India and at the Sorig Loling Tibetan Medical College of Qinghai University in eastern Tibet, completing a five-year program followed by a one-year internship and subsequent apprenticeships with master physicians across the Tibetan Plateau. Dr. Tidwell’s doctoral dissertation integrated insights from contemporary neuroscience, Buddhist epistemology, and biocultural anthropology to understand how Tibetan physicians learn embodied diagnostic practices, particularly for cancer and metabolic disorders. She looks at Tibetan medical training as developing the “physician as embodied diagnostic instrument” through cultivation of rigorous technical and perceptual skills. Previously at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and now at the Center for Healthy Minds in Madison, Wisconsin, Dr. Tidwell examines paradigms of transformation; how complex techniques are able to transmogrify toxins into medicines, trauma into healing and resilience. Dr. Tidwell draws on her extensive background in ecology and wilderness survival and her apprenticeship on the “rooftop of the world” in order to seek an integral understanding of the ecological relationships that sustain transformative work from within and without.


Elena Pakhoutova is a curator of Himalayan art at the Rubin Museum and holds a PhD in Asian art history from the University of Virginia. She has curated several exhibitions at the Rubin, most recently The Second Buddha: Master of Time (2018) and The Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel (2019).


The Rubin Museum presents this video in partnership with the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Tidwell was scheduled to present a workshop at the Rubin Museum’s Brainwave series for which lead support was provided by Science Sandbox, an initiative of Simons Foundation, and by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Science Sandbox

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