As we learned in lecture, applied medical anthropologists do not just study health cross culturally but also here in the U.S. where they study domestic issues of health. I chose to focus on the intersection of Clinical Medical Anthropology because clinical anthropologists are the ones who work with medical professionals and patients in clinical settings on ways to improve health care and management. I currently work as an aide at a physical therapy outpatient clinic. I work side by side with two medical professionals who have earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. We interact with patients of different backgrounds on a daily basis. The field of Physical Therapy and especially Occupational Therapy greatly interest me and I plan on pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy. Whether I am working for an Occupational Therapist or I myself become one, taking a clinical medical anthropological approach is crucial in the field and can help in improving the healthcare given to patients. One of the main goals of a clinical medical anthropologist is to emphasize the cultural context of an illness experience. This becomes important when treating patients of other cultures who understand health through different ethnomedical systems. The clinical medical anthropologists consider the complete cultural, biological, psychological, and social circumstances. They act as a cultural mediator in order to develop the best strategies to achieve health for each individual patient. Non-compliance is a big issue they encounter and the clinical medical anthropologists must find out why patients do not follow a specific medical protocol. Like any other medical field, patients in need of occupational therapy come from different backgrounds and cultures. Therefore, the therapy techniques used might not suit everybody’s traditional beliefs on ways of treatment. By receiving anthropological medical training, or assistance from a clinical medical anthropologist, the clinician can provide the best possible care and alter the treatment methods to suit the specific patient in need of therapy. Anthropologists who studying cultural competency have found results that prove the misunderstanding that occurs among clinicians and patients. For example, a case of an HIV positive man, who has lost his wife to the infection, isn’t able to take his four year old child, who is also diagnosed as being HIV positive, to regular doctor check ups. Clinician’s comprehension of the reason for this was not accurate. Medical anthropologists had to study the case and found out that the man was working late night shifts as a low paying bus driver which enabled him to take his son to appointments to see a doctor. Therefore it was concluded that instead of the reason being cultural differences, the man’s socioeconomic situation and local world he lives and works in are the factors preventing the opportunities to get the best care available. The article I found is criticizing the way cultural competency is viewed and the way it works. Even though the actual reason for the father in the example is due to his status in society, the factors that led to this cause are related to the differences in culture and the fact that the man was an immigrant himself or second generation. I do not mean to imply that every immigrant in the United States struggles to be ranked higher socioeconomically. I do however, believe that many people who migrate to the states start out or end up living in areas that aren’t as fortunate as others. Providing the means and opportunities for everyone is only fair, even for the people that might not be as advantaged. Understanding other’s cultural beliefs, when it comes to illness and treatment, is important to provide the best care for all.
Kleinman, Arthur and Peter Benson. “Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix It.” PLOS MEDICINE 3 (2006): 1673-1676.