METM14 presentation

A volunteer experience editing texts on alternative medicine in India

Celine Cavallo, Barcelona, Spain

I love my job, but I felt I had to take a break and wanted to return to India for something other than tourism. After some initial research, I decided to apply for volunteer text editing in Dharamsala, at Men-Tsee-Khang (MTK, Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute). MTK is the main center for traditional Tibetan medicine in the Tibetan community in exile and houses a clinic, a school of medicine and astrology (interrelated disciplines), a library, a pharmacy, and a bookstore. On their website, I saw that they were doing scientific research and writing articles related to their unique practice of medicine, so I contacted them and went there as a volunteer editor of medical texts. I knew nothing about Tibetan medicine, Buddhist philosophy, or the Tibetan language, but I greatly admire His Holiness the Dalai Lama and wanted to contribute to the Tibetan community. I had no idea what the work would be like, and really, would not have been able to imagine it. I quickly realized that working together with people from a completely different culture requires comprehending their situation, tact, and perfect respect. Conducting Western-style research in alternative medicine is, in itself, complicated, and the authors’ cultural differences and unfamiliarity with our scientific writing brought up unexpected editing issues. This presentation shows a way to take our skills out of the box and use them for the benefit of others, while gaining a worthwhile life experience in the process.

Celine Cavallo is a freelance translator and author’s editor based in the Barcelona area. She provides English language support to doctors working in experimental and clinical research.