Clinical Medical Anthropology

This intersection relates to my life because I am pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant. Clinical medical anthropology applies to my personal interests because in my future work field it is crucial to approach each patient as a different, unique individual and take into consideration many factors that impact and shape each and everyone’s lives and overall health.  Being familiar and programmed to have a clinical medical anthropology mindset benefits each factor involved in the healthcare setting: me as a PA, the individual dealing with health issue as a patient, and the system as a whole.  It gives me a well-rounded sense of approach by looking at my patients’ environments, culture and beliefs when providing treatments to them.

As suggested in this week’s videos and lectures, what one assumes would be best for their patients, as a physician or healthcare provider, may not be really what they need and one has to step back and get in tune with the community and culture that the patients are immersed in.  For example, Tribal Jazzman Scholar was explaining how a woman who raised money for a community in Peru in order to help with E. Coli issues due to water contamination went around to the females of the area to teach the importance of boiling their water before using it for meal purposes.  Everything seemed great as she went around and the ladies were nodding and responsive to the lecture about boiling, however around 8 months later came around for a follow up, none of the women were boiling the water.  So, she began to do interviews asking the reason behind not boiling water, and they said “well, you can’t boil water; water has the spirit of the Earth in it and it’s one of the critical, powerful spirits we bring into our bodies and when you boil it you destroy the spirit. So we must drink the water as it comes out of the earth, you know that right?”  So this case was an example of her efforts failing completely because she didn’t take into consideration the culture and beliefs of that community, so E. Coli prevention could not be done effectively through her approach.  Another effort in Ecuador was targeted for the women and implanting IUDs to help with family planning and the high birth rate.  This also backfired because when the women  were menstruating, they couldn’t handle food due to their belief system – so with the increase of length and severity of menstruation with the IUDs, it actually negatively impacted the village since they could not feed and care for their children and families for a longer period of time.  These are great examples of how understanding cultures is so important when strategizing efforts to medically help different people across the world.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kelly Zielinski says:

    Hi Amy,

    I agree with your reasoning as to why you believe that clinical medical anthropology is important. I have also considered the PA route, however, regardless of what aspect of health care we end up in, ultimately you are correct, it is important to look at each situation through the eyes of the patient and not our own, as difficult as that may be.

    I also agree that the Tribal Jazzman Scholar clip was a great example of how we do not want to assume certain wishes of people. Tying into the culture of the person, and our direct health care system, another way to look at clinical medical anthropology is through the disconnect that someone may have through their own culture. Perhaps we are treating someone through our western medicine, and they are from a culture that believes in different medical views. IF the patient agrees with the advice and approach of the western doctor, however, the family does not, it may be easier to understand and relate to the family if we are able to understand where they are coming from. So if the patient is deciding to make a health decision outside his or her cultural beliefs, it is important to be able to confirm and related with that patient. Any decision made for a patient should be made by the patient, not influenced. The clinical medical approach helps to ensure that.

  2. Rei Gjeci says:

    Hey Amy,

    I also wrote about the intersection of Clinical Medical Anthropology because I plan on pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy and it applied with the clinical aspect of medicine in our country. I considered going to PA school myself and I also agree with you that in the field it is very important to approach each patient differently and take into consideration the individual’s lifestyle and overall health. I would like to add to the point by saying that it is not only necessary to be trained to have a clinical medical anthropological mindset, so us as future clinicians can be well rounded when treating patients. We also can provide better care by applying different methods of treatment that aren’t only focused in biomedicine. For instance, in the example of the woman trying to help with the E. Coli issue in Peru due to water contamination. Her efforts were to educate the women of the community on the importance of boiling water but the differences in cultural beliefs were apparent since the society living in the village believed in spirits living in water and boiling would kill them. If the woman would have used a different approach and spent more time researching the culture or spent time living in it and learning their beliefs, she would have been able to come up with a better solution to drink non contaminated water that could have been more successful in that specific community.

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