Clinical Medical Anthropology

The area of applied medical anthropology I chose was clinical medical anthropology. I chose this because my degree deals with the health field so I have learned a lot about the subject and it interests me. Taking an anthropological view in a clinical setting is important because it covers topics and situations that doctors, nurses, specialists, etc. were not taught. Physicians are taught to take care of a patient and make sure they get better, and basically treat them like they are the disease they have. They don’t really find out much personal information, or any cultural information. This is where a medical anthropologist would come in. They would look at other things other than the science behind the disease, and actually take into account the cultural morals and values that one may possess. It would be a lot more personable and could definitely make someone feel a lot more comfortable in a clinical setting, especially if they are from a different cultural background than their physician. A clinician and a medical anthropologist could work together to decide the best way to treat a patient that would cure the illness all while taking into consideration the needs of the patient. Medical anthropologists could also talk to patients to find out their perceptions of the care they are getting and how they interpret it to better the environment in which the patient is in. This could help the clinician to ease the process of healing and be more comfortable with a patient. I think an important part of medical anthropology is asking questions and interviewing people. This way you get to know the person and how they feel in certain situations, what they like, what they don’t like, and you don’t have to guess. This makes it very personable for the patient because every person is different and reacts to things in different ways.

1 thought on “Clinical Medical Anthropology

  1. Your reflection made some excellent points about how medical anthropology can act as a bridge between patients and medical workers to ensure the best care. I especially agree with your statement that doctors are trained to treat each patient like she is simply a disease, or a combination of symptoms. While biomedicine excels at finding the best possible treatment for conditions of the human body, I think medical training can sometimes shift the focus away from treating patients as human beings with beliefs, thoughts, and priorities that need to be taken into consideration. This is why a medical anthropologist could help medical workers better understand both how their patients are personally experiencing disease, and how to provide care, compassion, and treatment within each patient’s interests at heart. Likewise, a medical anthropologist could act as an advocate for patients who feel uncomfortable with the culture of biomedicine, and work to keep clear communication between each patient and the healthcare providers. Like you, I’m planning on going into the healthcare field, and the application of this class will be very useful in my future. Like the Kleinman and Benson article we read this week explains, doctors can’t assume the culture of a patient that walks into the clinic based on the stereotypes of his ethnicity. Rather, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers need to make an effort to fully understand each patient, and develop the skill of asking questions to find out what matters most to the people that they serve.

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