A Yak in the Fridge – John Dickinson & Family


“Excellent book about a doctor’s family learning to live in Nepal. All the day to day events , and includes the doctor’s experience in dealing with medical situations in the country. Getting to know and love the wonderful people of Nepal.  A very good read indeed.” – Lord Swinfen


This book entitled, “A Yak in the Fridge” was great fun (and nostalgic) for me to read because, when I was an intern in Shanta Bhawan, Dr. John Dickinson so strongly communicated his abiding interest in high altitude medicine and the treatment of typhoid fever that it left an indelible mark in me. In fact years later when I returned to Nepal from North America and wanted to do some useful and interesting research, studying these two diseases (altitude illness and typhoid fever, poles apart though they may be) came naturally to me.

For me the attractive title of the book conjured up images of yaks roaming around at high altitude in the cold Himalayas until I stopped to think, what exactly was the yak doing in the fridge? This intriguing question actually inspired me to read the book as soon as I got a hold of it. The answer, when I found out, was just as fascinating as the question.

The book is filled with hilarious stories where his close-knit family members (his wife Angela, daughter Mary and son Jamie) heartily join in writing chapters to give us an entertaining and often insightful perspective of Nepal especially from the late 1970s and eighties which for me made riveting reading. Indeed the contributions from them add very strongly to the appeal of this book.

I too have many fond memories in the outpatient clinic of friendly banter between John insisting on speaking in Nepali with his Nepali patient and the patient unfazed, trying out his English on John. It was wildly entertaining for this lowly intern as it broke up the seriousness of learning from the Guru of high altitude medicine.
Dr Buddha Basnyat

Click here to obtain a review copy of A Yak in the Fridge 

“Having been to Nepal many times over the last twenty years I was fascinated to read of Dr Dickinsons’ experiences of Nepal, especially Kathmandu from a generation before.” – Keith Burgess

Author Bio

John Dickinson is a British Physician, brought up in Wembley, Middlesex. He studied medicine at Oxford and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians. He was later elected a Fellow of the College and was awarded a Doctorate in Medicine (DM) from Oxford for his work on Acute Mountain Sickness while in Nepal.

Going to Nepal with his young family in 1969, John became Consultant Physician at the Shanta Bhawan mission hospital run by the United Mission to Nepal. A busy life included a huge number of patients, teaching health workers at all levels and being involved in founding the first Medical School in Nepal where he became Professor of Physiology. He squeezed in some research and became the first Medical Director of the new Patan Hospital in 1982 for 4 years.

Returning to England to care for aged parents, he became an Army Physician, rising to the rank of Colonel and serving in a Field Hospital in the First Gulf War.

In the year 2000 he returned to Nepal with Angela to become Director of an HIV AIDS programme and then teaching in a different Medical School. ‘Retiring’ in 2005, he taught in the Hull York Medical School for some years and continues to teach in the Leeds Medical School.

Though John wrote a large part of the book, his wife Angela, daughter Mary and son James also contributed chapters and interjected comments.