A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

The article that I chose was A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul.  The article centers on the Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California that, along with standard physicians, has a program which allows shamans to visit patients.  This is because the area the Mercy Medical Center serves has a large Hmong population, which follows a strict spiritual belief and views certain medical procedures as taboo.  This resulted in a large number of preventable medical complications that were a large factor in the development of a program that mixed Western medical procedures with the Hmong spiritual beliefs.  Through permission and training by the hospital, shamans are allowed to perform nine approved ceremonies, shorter version of ceremonies seen within the
Hmong community, and are given unrestricted access to patients, just like members of the clergy.  This integration of a community’s belief system along with the medical  community is an approach that is becoming popular in medical institutions throughout the country that serve immigrant, refugee, and ethnic-minority communities.  The article also mentions that the distrust in medical professionals is becoming less of an issue with younger, Hmong-Americans becoming more prominent figures within the family.

In this article the healers are the shamans, both within the community and in the hospital.  Within the Hmong community, the shamans are revered as healers and hold a high status.  The techniques used vary depending on the location the rituals are performed.  Within the community, shamans hold rituals in a family’s living room or garage with large numbers of friends and family in attendance.  During these rituals, the
shaman can go into a trance for hours.  In the hospital setting, the shaman performs toned down versions of these rituals and they generally last about 10 to 15 minutes.
The interaction between shaman and patient in the hospital is much more personal than the interactions outside the hospital.

In the Hmong culture, health care isn’t provided in the same fashion we are used to seeing.  Many medical procedures are not allowed in their culture and the shaman is viewed as a source of healing.  The symptoms are viewed as evil spirits that must be driven out of the body through various ceremonial practices.

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