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Dr. Tsewang Ngodupl

Civic Leadership Award

Doctor, community educator and former refugee

In 1959, my parents left their ancestral home in Eastern Tibet when peace could not be maintained between the Tibetan and communist Chinese governments. 

After an arduous journey taking months on foot across the Himalayas, my parents sought refuge in India. They were uneducated and did not know Hindi, the national language of India, and had to start a new life in a foreign land. I spent my entire childhood and adult life in India until I came to the U.S. in 1997 to further my education. Initially, I came alone and subsequently, my family was able to join.

While the advancement in living conditions was remarkable, pockets of poverty and suffering still exist. I was inspired to witness how charitable the American public was.

I grew up in India with limited resources, although I do not recall going to bed hungry. I managed to get a good education and I feel blessed that I was able to make full use of the opportunities. One needs to understand that refugees are diverse. Tibetans are political refugees, and as with many refugee populations, Tibetans have given back to the host country, at times many-fold. Education is a great equalizer. Every child should have equal opportunity to a good education, empowering them to live meaningful lives to their full potential.

For me, success means leading a life infused with purpose, while giving back to the community, country and ultimately the world. One cannot achieve this without health and well-being. Hearing the teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who encourages all Tibetans living in the diaspora to lead meaningful lives, gives me daily energy and motivation. I also would not have been able to pursue my life goals without the sacrifices of my wife, with whom I have shared this wonderful life for almost 40 years. I also remember with gratitude my parents, particularly my late mother.

I am trained as a well-rounded physician working for the well-being of underserved populations in Minnesota. I also feel honored to have participated in various national forums as a physician. All the while, contributed to the Tibetan community (in Minnesota and the wider diaspora) and the Asian American community of Minnesota. A highlight of my life was when I held the U.S. passport in my hands and visited Ga-Kye-Gu-Do (parental ancestral land) in 2018. There and then, I knew I had fulfilled one of my most cherished lifelong dreams.

Despite the flaws inherent in any system, the U.S. remains the leading democratic nation. Freedom-loving people living under oppressive regimes continue to look up to its leadership. Equity and education will empower refugees.

Study and work hard with long-term goals in mind. There is no one ideal career as long as one works towards a skill that produces value. Always remember to give back to the community and never forget where you came from.

Dr. Tsewang Ngodup
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