|Ms. Sara Lewis is a Ph.D. candidate in Medical Anthropology at Columbia University. She is interested in the intersection between religion, culture and mental health, with a specialization in Tibetan Buddhism. Ms. Lewis has published in the areas of anthropology, public health, and psychiatric services research. In addition to pursuing a doctorate, she also works as a clinical social worker in community mental health where she conducts psychotherapy with individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness. Upon completing her Ph.D. at Columbia, Ms. Lewis plans to pursue an academic job in teaching and research, where she also hopes to continue her clinical work. She hopes her research will help to bridge psychiatric anthropology and more applied mental health research disciplines.
Mental health in Tibetan refugee communities has been studied extensively; however, these studies have focused almost exclusively on trauma. There is little information available about those who manage to thrive in the face of adversity. Studies suggest this exile community seems to be unusually resilient, likely due to religious factors; however, this hypothesis has not been adequately examined. Ms. Lewis's Fulbright-Nehru research is titled as "Buddhism and Coping Among Tibetan Refugees Living in Northern India." Using ethnographic research methods, the study aims to explore how the Tibetan exile community, through its Buddhist cultural ethos, may promulgate practices that promote stability and resilience. This project extends scholarship within anthropology, Tibetan studies, and refugee mental health.