A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

In “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the soul,” the integration of cultures within the medical community is discussed, specifically the use of Shamans in hospitals. This is a huge advance in regards to strengthening the cultural bonds between patients that come in and their medical doctors expected to treat them. Using the Hmong people as an example, this article attempts to explain what can happen when there are miscommunications between patients and their doctors at the hospitals. Not only are there language barriers, but there are differences in opinions about healing as well. Traditional healers, called Shamans are now allowed to perform certain ceremonies at the Mercy Medical Center in Merced. Among the Hmong community, Shamans are highly respected, and thought to have healing abilities. They use certain rituals to try and heal people. Some rituals include negotiating with the spirits of their patients, or using certain objects/animals to ward off or communicate with the spirits. They also do “soul calling” and chant and dance. The shamans interact with their patients on a personal level, performing rituals and communicating with them. In Western medicine, it is typical to have insurance, go to see a doctor, have them prescribe a medicine, or perform some sort of medical procedure. The body and its symptoms are typically explained through physical aspects, and doctors tend to focus on the physical symptoms of illnesses. Differing from our western medicine culture, Shamans do not take payment or insurance for their services, though sometimes they will accept food. This contrasts our healthcare system, where almost no aspect of it is free. Shamans focus more on the spiritual belief when it comes to overcoming an illness. They tend to try and focus on the souls of their patients, and then the physical aspects will be resolved. Shamans help to understand the cultural barriers between different patients and their medical doctors. They also give an alternative method when it comes to healing.

Brown, Patricia. “A Doctor For Disease, A Shaman For the Soul.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/us/20shaman.html?_r=3& (accessed July 19, 2014).

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