Clinical Medical Anthropology

I knew right off the bat which intersection of applied medical anthropology I would be most interested in, Clincal Medical Anthropology. I chose this intersection because I am an aspiring physician assistant, and clinical medical anthropology is very relevent to this career. Clinical anthropologists work with both medical professionals and patients in a medical setting on ways to improve management as well as health care. Physician assistants would benefit greatly from a background in clinical medical anthropology because of the similarities in the work environments, physician assistants work in a medical setting and are constantly communicating with both medical professionals such as doctors and the patients.

If I was a physician assistant taking an anthropological would be very rewarding for both myself and the patients I care for. Clinical medical anthropology would be especially useful because one of their primary goals is to emphasize the cultural context of an illness experience, this is an important feature when treating patients from different cultures (as mentioned in Lecture 6.1). By taking a course in anthropology I would not only be a physician assistant but a cultural mediator, I would be looking for the solution that is best fit for the individual patient focusing on the biological, psychological, socioeconomic, and political circumstances. Dr. Paul Farmer is a perfect example of how useful anthropology is to medical professionals such as doctors, physician assistants, nurses, etc. Dr. Farmer faces the social challenges of providing treatment using both his anthropological and clinical knowledge. In addition Farmer’s background in anthropology gives him a greater human understanding and increases his ability to relate with others. The espisode of 60 minutes about Dr. Farmer was inspirational and almost has me convinced that all doctors should have a degree in anthropology in order to provide the best care for all of their patients.

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  1. Chase Taylor says:

    Meghan, this was a really cool series of insight into an approach that I also am very interested in. I have to agree with you out of all the approaches that you have chosen clinical anthropology is absolutely the most relevant to your future career. I actually think of all the health careers physicians assistants may have one of the highest ratios of decision making abilities to patient interaction. I mean when you think about it a lot of technologists and doctors these days do more work interpreting results then interacting with patients. On the other hand individuals like nurses and receptionist interact with the patients to a very high degree but may not have the same interpreting and decision making power as doctors. The physicians assistant as you stated is the perfect marriage between these two function groups. In a lot of ways you get the opportunity to take information and then apply it in way that seems best at your discretion so a background in anthropology is critical. Medical anthropology can also contribute in the sense that you would not only understand the solution but also the problem better perhaps in some situations. A knowledge of medical anthropology can help you to understand which cultures have a higher frequencies of a disease/illness and why.

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