In Northern India, amidst the mountain ranges and cold deserts of Ladakh, Lobsang was born a Tibetan in exile. One of five children, her father worked as a driver while her mother tended the home. She grew up in a traditional and culturally bound family. Lobsang was fortunate to gain a scholarship to continue her education at a Tibetan school and subsequently gained a Pestalozzi Scholarship. With a BSc Biology (Joint Hons) and a MRes Biomedical Sciences from the University of Brighton, Lobsang is currently a PhD student and student researcher for Cancer Research UK based at Durham University.
“Without a Pestalozzi Scholarship, my life would be completely different. Given the limited opportunities for Tibetan refugee students in India, even becoming a science teacher seemed impossible. My career aspiration to study medicine or a related subject would have remained an unrealised dream. More importantly, I wouldn’t have realised my own potential as a learner able to seek out chances to achieve my goals. Receiving the Pestalozzi Scholarship was THAT moment in my life when I started to believe that working towards my career aspirations and beyond was no longer just a dream, but something possible despite the challenges.
Currently based in a cancer research lab in Durham, I am associated with a tutoring programme, which involves PhD students tutoring school and university students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK. Given the programme’s focus on helping students from underprivileged communities, who are under-represented at universities, it was natural for me to participate. Importantly, my personal experience of having been supported by scholarships means that I am aware of how huge an impact such opportunities can have on students with limited resources of their own. Previous experience of visiting schools in the southeast UK as a Student Enrichment and Outreach Ambassador highlighted that students from underprivileged communities often lack the support systems to encourage them to access university education. Being part of the tutoring programme hopefully reflects a very small part of me ‘paying it forward’.
Drawing on the same motivation to help students from communities like mine, I’m supporting Tibetan students from southern India to prepare for scholarships or university admission. By sharing my personal experience, I hope to increase their enthusiasm to work towards their goals.
In the future, I hope to materialise my plan to form a cancer awareness group and connect with a scientific community spanning across different research areas within the Tibetan community. Although initiatives to talk about cancer and its causes have been led by the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, I still find an obvious lack of knowledge on the disease and more importantly, an urge to hide and self-diagnose the early onsets as generalised pain/ache as a result of aging or working. In particular, gastric cancer remains the primary cause of death within the Tibetan community. Yet, mainly due to the lack of awareness on the disease itself and about the medical help that can be rendered in time for diagnoses or treatment, most resort to painkillers thinking they have temporary gastritis. A cancer awareness group would allow more discussion about the disease, how it manifests and enables a more inclusive approach to getting diagnosed when suspected. My wish to connect a scientific community amongst Tibetan clinicians and researchers in is based on my hope to have a community where we can discuss and share our scientific work and also mentor younger Tibetan students in exile more easily about their future career prospects. In doing so, I believe there will be greater discussions on how our work can benefit our community both within the scientific capacity and outside.
I derived great satisfaction from doing work that I believe is ‘meaningful’ through my volunteering experiences in Tibetan schools and at the Hospital in Ladakh. I hope my current volunteering will enable the Tibetan community to gain more gifted minds who can better our community in future.”
Lobsang Dolma shared with us what she is achieving through her current work.
“Significant improvements in medical technologies mean that cancer diagnoses’ measures have become considerably quicker and better, albeit not consistent across different cancers. At the same time, anti-cancer treatment therapies have also advanced, but at a much slower pace. From basic research to clinical trials, I think that it’s imperative that more cancer research be done to overcome the difficulty in treating cancer, particularly more aggressive ones and to improve the quality of life and survival for patients. At Cancer Research UK, my current work involves coming up with novel ways to target more aggressive cancers by focusing mainly on a protein called mutant p53, which is considered ‘undruggable’ in cancer. Our work aims to establish the foundational evidence we require for any future interventions that may later be relevant for human trials. By being part of our lab, I believe that my work ultimately contributes towards the goal of alleviating the disease burden of cancer.”
Access to education has clearly made a difference in Lobsang’s life.
“I believe education is the best, if not the only source of gaining ‘holistic awareness’ in one’s life. Besides the textbooks and the central knowledge you gain from learning different subjects, education facilitates an understanding on culture, lifestyle, language, community and beyond. The core benefit of receiving such awareness through education results in our ability to think and work on the ‘bigger’ picture of how we can eventually contribute and better communities in our own way. At a community level, education enables a greater capability for self-sustenance and continued development.
Thank you so much for supporting Pestalozzi in giving education to young minds, including myself, from disadvantaged communities and countries. Through each one of us, your help reaches so many more lives within and outside our communities and I remain extremely grateful.
In continuing to enable Pestalozzi to support more bright minds who can give back, I wish for your continued support in any way possible. Your help continues to change so many lives and communities for the better.”