Readers of my book entitled Searching for Sitala Mata, Eradicating Smallpox in India, will remember how close I was to Sikkim and Tibet when I was posted to the northern-most part of the Indian State of West Bengal, for smallpox work in 1975. At night I would read old historical autobiographies and biographies of foreign adventurers that tried to enter Tibet from India in the 1800s. I was so close, and yet so far from the mysterious Tibet.
So once I retired to the Lake Chapala region of Mexico, near Guadalajara, I started plotting on how I would get to Tibet. Even now it remains difficult to access this tiny former Himalayan kingdom as China has declared Tibet has always been a part of its domain. In September 2015 I joined a GeoEx (Geo Expeditions) tour to Tibet. In the original tour we were to travel overland from Lhasa to Gyantse, to Shigatse, to Shekar, with a side trip to the base camp of Everest (Tibet side) and then travel along the Chinese border with Nepal and drop down to Kathmandu. However, seven months before the scheduled trip there was a huge earthquake in Nepal centered in the capital and in remote border areas with China. Although the roads had been cleared and traffic could potentially travel in Nepal, China closed the Friendship Bridge at the border. So we could only do the tour in Tibet and then retrace our steps to Lhasa and then fly on to Kathmandu. It was still a fantastic trip through a rapidly changing environment in Tibet. I will always remember the trip excursion!
Dr. Cornelia E. Davis, MD, MPH, was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she graduated from Gonzaga University in 1967 with a BS in Biology. She prefers to be called Connie. In 1968, she was one of the first black women admitted to the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. After finishing her pediatric residency at the USC Los Angeles County teaching hospital, gratitude for her life’s many opportunities led her to seek out humanitarian work. The World Health Organization hired her for their smallpox eradication program in India. Connie worked for two years in the smallpox program in two states in India- West Bengal and Rajasthan.
Davis returned to the United States in 1977 and earned a master of public health degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She’s worked for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and has battled disease outbreaks on the ground in Cambodian, and Ethiopian refugee camps. Davis went on to do development work with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and United States Agency for Development (USAID).
Davis has one daughter adopted in Ethiopia during the civil war. Now semi-retired, she lives on Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara, Mexico.