About Us

Himalayan Health Exchange, Inc.

Himalayan Health Exchange Inc. was established to provide a cross cultural learning nd community service based adventure.

In 1996, founder Ravi Singh, a native of Himachal Pradesh now living in the U.S., organized a medical camp for a US based organization in the Indian Himalayas. This experience encouraged him to make future expeditions, under Himalayan Health Exchange, to be community service based adventures. Himalayan Health Exchange’s expeditions now cover 4 remote regions of the Indian Himalayas and, through trekking, hiking and road-travel, our teams get a rare opportunity to learn from lifestyles of the natives and in return teach them the importance of good health and well being. Varying levels of trekking, hiking and road travel provide a unique and profound intercultural experience to individuals of all ages who may be interested in doing a international health rotation or a independent field study project. Himalayan Health Exchange Inc. was established to provide a cross cultural learning and community service based adventure.

The focus of our expeditions is to provide a quality educational experience mixed with adventure and culture and to improve local well being. Primary and public health is integrated into all of our expeditions. A health awareness campaign includes general and oral hygiene, diet and nutrition, reproductive health and prevention from commonly found infectious diseases in the Trans-Himalayan regions along the Indo-Tibetan borderlands. Patient population includes natives, Tibetan settlers and children living in monastic schools, orphanages and Buddhist nunneries.

Each expedition is designed and planned around local weather, road and trekking conditions with safety of participants being the top priority. Ample time is included for exploring the surrounding region. A typical camp day comprises four to six hours of field work. Depending on the group’s wishes, we may tour, hike or visit a village or settlement for the remainder of the day. We return for evening case study presentation session and a relaxing evening to enjoy a meal and conversation before retiring for the night.

Meet our physicians and supervisors who have contributed their time and talent to provide care to our patients, and supervision to students and residents.  Their support and guidance has helped HHE build 5 permanent clinics that provide year round care to patients living in some of the most remote regions of the Western Himalayas.

RAVI SingH

Founder, Himalayan Health Exchange

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Ravi Singh: Native of the Himalayas, born and raised in Simla in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

He has participated in and led bicycling, motorcycle and trekking expeditions throughout the Himalayas. He moved to the U.S. in the mid-1980s to pursue higher education and business interests. In 1992, he founded Himalayan Spirit Expeditions, combining his entrepreneurial spirit with his love for the Himalayas. It was on these expeditions to remote regions where he came to know of the healthcare deficiencies of the rural populations and, in 1996, founded the Himalayan Health Exchange.

He has brought together a group of hardworking and dedicated staff who provide a unique international health experience and adventure for participants.

Gary Neiss, M.D., F.A.C.C.”Gary Neiss”

Division of Cardiology
Presbyterian Hospital Matthews
Mid Carolina Cardiology

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Dr. Niess did his undergraduate work at Dartmouth College where he first learned to love the outdoors. He received his medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and did his internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Currently he is Physician Executive for the Novant Heart & Vascular Institute for the Greater Charlotte Market and Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center outside of Charlotte, NC. Dr. Niess got his first dose of HHE when his daughter Meredith, a student at UNC Medical School, invited him to come with her on her trip to Spiti. Besides his work with HHE he has experience in international healthcare as prior Chief of Cardiovascular Services for Emirates Palomar in the United Arab Emirates as well as in the Caribbean with cardiovascular services for the BVI. His long term interest is in advancing international healthcare opportunities for those who find healthcare hard to obtain. Dr. Niess did his undergraduate work at Dartmouth College where he first learned to love the outdoors. He received his medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and did his internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Currently he is Chief of Cardiology and Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Presbyterian Hospital outside of Charlotte, NC. He is Chief of Staff Elect of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews. Dr. Niess got his first dose of HHE when his daughter Meredith, a student at UNC Medical School, invited him to come with her on her trip to Spiti. He has prior exposure to international healthcare as Chief of Cardiovascular Services for Emirates Polamar, a group who worked with the Harvard Hospitals to upgrade the national healthcare system for the United Arab Emirates military. His long term interest is in advancing international healthcare opportunities for those who find healthcare hard to obtain. Dr. Niess did his undergraduate work at Dartmouth College where he first learned to love the outdoors. He received his medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and did his internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Currently he is Chief of Cardiology and Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Presbyterian Hospital outside of Charlotte, NC. He is Chief of Staff Elect of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews. Dr. Niess got his first dose of HHE when his daughter Meredith, a student at UNC Medical School, invited him to come with her on her trip to Spiti. He has prior exposure to international healthcare as Chief of Cardiovascular Services for Emirates Polamar, a group who worked with the Harvard Hospitals to upgrade the national healthcare system for the United Arab Emirates military. His long term interest is in advancing international healthcare opportunities for those who find healthcare hard to obtain.

Sarah Russell, MD

La Maestra Family Clinic
San Diego

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Dr. Sarah Russell received her degree from University of California at San Diego after graduating with a molecular biology degree from University of California at Santa Cruz. Dr. Russell finished her residency training at Scripps Chula Vista Family Practice Residency Program and then worked at La Maestra Family Clinic in San Diego practicing full-spectrum family medicine, including obstetrics and surgical procedures. She has volunteered at free clinics in San Diego and for the past 5 years she has been the clinical director in Temecula. Her interests are in preventive medicine, obstetrics and pediatrics. Dr. Russell has a husband, 3 sons, 2 dogs and a cat. Outside interests include swimming, hiking, yoga and photography and she enjoys traveling to the Himalayas to provide care to the underserved.

Guy Nuki, MD

Department of Emergency Medicine
Maine General
149 North Street
Waterville, ME 04901

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Dr. Nuki is the Regional Medical Director for BlueWater Emergency Partners, a private EM group based in Maine. After graduating from his Family Medicine Residency in Ventura CA he practiced both Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine for 6 years in rural WA. His clinical experience has been focused on emergency medicine since 2004 but has included outpatient primary care, high risk obstetrics and hospitalist medicine. While faculty at the Central Maine Medical Center’s Family Medicine Residency he helped to establish the educational program for the Himalayan Health Exchange and has led teams of medical students, residents and physicians in remote Himalayan regions of India and has lectured for the Global Health Education Consortium. Dr. Nuki was the founding director of the MaineGeneral Emergency Medicine Fellowship, has served as the Chair of the Workforce Section for the American College of Emergency Physicians and works as an Emergency Physician across Maine including work as the Chief Medical Officer for Calais Regional Hospital.

Sujata Tipnis, MD, MPH

Children’s Comprehensive Care Center
University of Miami/Holtz Children’s Hospital
Miami, Florida

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Dr. Sujata Tipnis is a general pediatrician with the University of Miami/Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida . She completed her Pediatric residency training at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital and since has enjoyed always serving a diverse group of children and families. She has practiced in Houston, Texas and northern California before relocating with her family to Miami. Her favorite aspects of participating in expeditions to Ladakh and the Spiti Valley include providing care to the children and families in those regions, learning from the local providers and enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of the mountains. In her spare time Dr. Tipnis likes to spend time with her son, daughter and husband. She enjoys being outside, especially by the water when home and mountains when traveling; talking longs walks, playing tennis, reading and baking.

Shawn Vainio, M.D

Kodiak Island Medical Associates
Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center
Kodiak, Alaska

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Shawn Vainio MD is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and completed his residency at the University of Utah in Family Medicine. He is currently a Board Certified Family Practitioner practicing in Bethel, Alaska. He has participated in twelve HHE expeditions and has practiced in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Antarctica.

Kari Sears, MD

Family and Sports Medicine
South Bend, Indiana

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Dr. Kari Sears is a family and sports medicine physician in South Bend, IN. She completed her medical degree at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and family medicine residency at Memorial Family Medicine Residency in South Bend, IN. Dr. Sears continued her training in Sports Medicine at the South Bend – Notre Dame Sports Medicine fellowship. She has special interests in sports medicine and international medicine. When not working, Dr. Sears enjoys running, cycling, traveling, camping, and she always has at least one home improvement project in the works!

Merih Topsakal, PharmD

Universal Medica, Pharmaceutical Contractor in Medication Safety
Paris, France

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Merih Topsakal, originally from Ankara, Turkey, received her Doctor fo Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston and completed a Drug Information residency at Duke University Hospital and GlaxoSmithKline in Durham, North Carolina. Merih now works in medication safety in the pharmaceutical industry in Paris, France. Merih speaks English, French and Turkish. She enjoys the outdoors, traveling, being immersed in different cultures and learning new languages. She has participated in the ChangThang plateau 2012 trip and is eager to come back but this time for a longer period.

paul donnelly, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ

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Professor Paul Donnelly teaches Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University. He has a PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a student of Geshe Lhundup Sopa. Professor Donnelly also teaches courses on Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Tantric forms of Indian religions, Women in Asian Religions and Religion and Film. Professor Donnelly has travelled to the Indian Himalayas extensively and has been leading anthropology trips for HHE since 2004.

oliver hutchinson bds

10 Heaton Road, Batley
West Yorkshire
WF17 0AT. UK

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Oliver is a general dental practitioner who graduated from University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Since qualifying he has worked in general practice in Sunderland. Oliver has a special interest in practicing dentistry (especially oral surgery) and oral health care promotion in the rural environment.Prior to university Oliver worked at outdoor pursuits camps in the UK and gained his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1999. He has participated in two Himalayan Health Expeditions and plans to return atleast once every year. His interests include climbing, hiking and foreign travel.

elizabeth haney, md, ccfp-em

Assistant Professor,
Division of Emergency Medicine
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario
Canada

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Dr. Elizabeth Haney received her medical degree at Dalhousie University,Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a full time Emergency Physician practicing in Southwestern Ontario. Professionally she has strong interests in international medicine, wilderness medicine, and in ultrasound applications in the emergency department. International medicine has captured her heart and expeditions will be a regular occurrence in her practice. Interests outside of medicine include running, rock climbing, CrossFit, travel, and photography.

jane cross

Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Tufts University School of Medicine

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Jane Cross is a pediatrician from western Massachusetts who first became interested in international health (IH) in the 1970’s during time off from college when she worked in a mission hospital in western Kenya. That interest was placed on the back burner for decades while she got her schooling and raised a family. In 2002, she and a friend worked in the high Andes of Peru for 2 weeks as part of a child survival project and they returned again in 2003. Since then she has also traveled to Ecuador several times, the Dominican Republic several times, helped start an IH track for interested residents and students at her local teaching hospital, co-chaired an IH state committee of the AAP and had her first trip with Himalayan Health Exchange in June 2010. Her dream is to someday cut her work to half time and increase her travel time accordingly, allowing her perhaps three month-long trips a year.
ACentral and Western Mass. VAMC
421 N. Main St., Leeds, MA 01057

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Dr Levy’s career has been focused on Community Oriented Primary Care. After residency he worked for several years for Indian Health Services at the Tuba City, AZ hospital as an Internist and Director of Medical Education. He was the founding medical director of a community health center, served as Chief of Medicine at an area Hospital, worked briefly in private practice, and, more recently, was Director of medical services for the Central / Western Massachusetts VA. He currently works as a staff internist and director of the Hepatitis C program at the CWM VA. His interests in International, and, more specifically, Himalayan Health, began in residency when he spent an elective in Nepal. Outside the medical orbit, he spends time hiking, bicycling, and playing jazz. He has led two trips for HHE and is delighted to be planning his third.
Landspitali University Hospital
Reykjavik, Iceland

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Dr Gudmundsdottir studied medicine in Reyjavik, Iceland and qualified in 2013, and is now finishing her anesthesiology residency at the Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik. Signy has participated in two of the Himalayan Health Exchange camps, first as a student on the Outer Himalayas Trip to Himachal Pradesh and then again as a physician on the Kargiakh trip in August 2013. When she isn´t working she is hiking and enjoying the beautiful Icelandic highlands.
DO MPH
Family Medicine Resident-Physician
Unity Health Care Washington DC
The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education

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Denton Shanks is devoted to working in the community, leading through service, and reaching out to the larger world in an effort to promote good healthcare for all. He enjoys working with multidisciplinary teams on global health & development and disruptive healthcare innovations & technologies to help discover sustainable solutions for individuals and communities everywhere. He grew up with exchange students from around the world and volunteering with his sister ‘s Special Olympics team. He has studied, completed research, and worked in many states and countries and now is completing a Family Medicine Residency at a community health center in Washington DC. He is also working on a Wilderness Medicine fellowship and has immensely enjoyed participating on two HHE expeditions so far.

As a continuity of healthcare to our patients, Himalayan Health Exchange has established 5 permanent clinics that provide year-round care while affording the opportunity for an extended clinical experience with a 6-8 week medical elective.