Clinical Medical Anthropology

I chose this intersection of medical anthropology because I would like to be a doctor. Being a doctor means taking care of your patients and it also means being able to understand them. In order to fully assess a patient, a doctor must take into consideration not only the physicality of the patient but also cultural and religious beliefs associated with that patient. Having prior knowledge of the varieties of cultures and beliefs can definitely have an effect on how the patient will be treated.

Taking an anthropological approach in the area of clinical healthcare can be very useful when it comes to the treatment of patients. Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and founder of a hospital in Haiti, shows an exceptional way medical anthropology can be applied in a clinical setting. This hospital in Haiti provides healthcare free of cost and is helping to diminish the number of deaths by treatable diseases. Dr. Paul Farmer and his team of physicians are saving lives and are changing the way people see clinical medical anthropology.

Another way anthropology can be useful in a clinical setting can be easily seen through the example of the Chinese woman from one of the assigned articles from this week’s lesson plan. In this scenario, the Chinese woman refuses to accept medical treatment due to the fact that her clinicians had diagnosed her with depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. The woman discontinues treatment and refuses contact by her clinicians. After further anthropological investigation, we learn that the Chinese woman cannot accept that she is suffering from these mental disorders based on the fact that mental disorders are stigmatized in her family. Changing the terms of “depressive disorder” and “anxiety disorder” to the term “neurasthenia” (meaning stress-related condition) was deemed acceptable by the Chinese woman and the clinicians could, therefore, reestablish a connection with their patient.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Matt Waldrop says:

    Hi Taylor –

    I thought your post on clinical medical anthropologists was very interesting, and like you I am also trying to become a doctor, so this is very relevant to our field. I agree with your view of clinical medical anthropologists, that it is extremely important for doctors to understand their patient’s cultural background when taking into account the patients illness. The illness could be due to their background, or your treatment might have to take the patient’s culture into account, as you described with the case of the Chinese woman with neurasthenia. Another place where clinical medical anthropologists can help out the healthcare system is with hospital management. A clinical medical anthropologist would be able to help out with the management system to deliver care more effectively and possible reduce cost, which is a growing issue. Clinical medical anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer has found a way to deliver healthcare for free to one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere in Haiti, and I think clinical medical anthropologists could take from his example to help our healthcare management system model after his. Hospitals, doctors, and patients could all benefit from the help of a clinical medical anthropologist perspective on our healthcare system.

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