Clinical Medical Anthropology

Clinical Medical Anthropology was my choice due to it directly correlating to what I want to be when I grow up.  There are two paths that interest me the most about becoming an OB.  I would like to either work abroad, in third world countries helping women and infants with medical issues, or I would like to work here in the US and start a non profit organization that helps care for women before during and after birth.  I would like to help educated women about their birthing options, educated them on health and fitness during pregnancy, and inform them about the changes that their bodies will be going through during the process.  I would like to offer this service to women at a low cost or for free through grants and subsidized offerings.  Being able to understand someone’s wants and desires, cultural views and beliefs, will greatly assist me in being able to accurately and efficiently help them.  Whether I work overseas or in the country, everyone’s perspective on issues varies, and I believe that the ability to learn, listen, and follow their lead will help me profoundly.

If I were to become an OB in a hospital and work with other doctors who were strictly biomedically and ethnocentrically focused, we may in fact end up offending or insulting patients with our practices or assumptions.  In fact, I would bet that without a doubt it would happen.  Perhaps a patient is having a hard time with her contractions and really seems to be struggling through the pain of labor.  It may be our assumption that she would be ready for and need pain relief to help her get through parturition, however, perhaps her religious or cultural beliefs would be offended by this act.  Without consulting her and/or her family, we would not have any way of knowing.  Simply because it is the path that many women in our country take, we can not assume that all women would want an medicated experience.

Another example of this is if I were to be working with doctors in another country.  As told in video by Tribal Jazzman, a village of people, who were thought to need many different health related items, had asked for a lights for their soccer field.  Although the anthropologist thought this was very off base, the soccer lights and generated were granted.  It turned out that the soccer lights helped the work ethic of the men, they worked later, played soccer later, and their playing of soccer later into the evenings avoided them from going home and getting drunk every night.  The alcoholism dropped in the village and the men awoke earlier to get to work earlier each day.  The productivity and healthiness of the men helped to boost the economy in the area, producing more money for each family which created them opportunities to spend more.  The soccer lights although would not have been the first thought for the anthropologist to suggest to allocate the funds to, turned out to be a genius idea that helped tremendously.  This example would prove to be a great lesson to learn for all anthropologists and doctors alike.  Just because it is a concept or idea that we didn’t think of ourselves, does not mean that it would not be the best option for the person or village.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dylan Bieber says:

    Overall, I have to agree with your assessment of medical anthropology. It is very important for doctors to understand what treatments a patient may or may not receive based on their faith. It is also important to understand that everyone is different, and just because we share the same country does not mean everyone shares the same beliefs. Another way medical anthropology is important in a clinical setting is if a patient has an illness that they believe was caused by something spiritual, it’s important to understand that the should receive some sort of spiritual “healing,” if only for a placebo effect.

    In the case of the village described by Tribal Jazzman, it is important to note that villages like these will often know the best way of utilizing their resources. Just because our western society is more advance and modern, does not mean that we will always know the best course of action for them to take. After all, they are the one’s with the most experience in their area.

    I think the most important reason for having anthropological knowledge in a medical setting is to know how people of different cultures experience illness. People of certain cultures will downplay symptoms of certain illnesses. An example of this would be the stigmatization against mental illness of Chinese people.

  2. Justin Kenton says:

    I would have to say that I also agree with your take on the clinical approach of medical anthropology. Either of your goals are impressive and I think that it is totally feasible with the right dedication and connections. When you mentioned working abroad, the video from this week’s lecture about Dr. Farmer and the work done in Haiti comes to mind. His contributions to the community where the clinic was established are phenomenal! Across the globe there are so many people who do not have access to medical care and really need it.

    Of course cultures are extremely different amongst the people of this planet, from the biomedical standpoint we are all still biologically human and have the same processes occur. With an education in biomedicine as well as anthropology to understand the culture you are working with, the people will have a chance to be educated on different birthing options and health/fitness while pregnant that their culture might find useful.

    Establishing a nonprofit organization here in the United States is another great option because, let’s face it, just because we live in the U.S. does not mean that everybody has equal access to healthcare as we have seen throughout the semester’s materials. Establishing a free or low cost option to women who might not have enough money to seek out medical treatment or advice would be awesome! There is much care that needs to occur while pregnant for not only the mother’s sake, but the baby’s sake too. Adaptive processes by the developing fetus change that baby biologically based on the nutrition available. Helping to be mothers learn how to eat properly even before conception would make a dramatic impact on the baby’s health.

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