I decided to explore the New York Times article, “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul” this week. The article explores Mercy Medical Center’s (Merced, California) approach to medicine by connecting western medical practices with traditional Hmong shaman healing beliefs. Many of the patients at this hospital are Hmong and believe in the cultural shamans as spiritual healers. The hospital has permitted a few shamans to come and perform ceremonies for those who make request them. The shamans are allowed access to the hospital in a similar manner clergy are for those who follow the Christian faith. The presence of shamans puts the Hmong patients a lot more at ease. This is because many of the medical practices we observe and are used to in our western society are not acceptable within their cultural beliefs. So, by combining tradition with modern medicine, many patients are a lot happier with their treatment. Mercy is not the only hospital that allows for these traditional healers to come and practice in the hospitals. This is a common practice spreading around the country, and I believe it is a great idea.
The shamans for the Hmong people are spiritual healers. They use animal sacrifice, prayer, and negotiation with spirits to perform their duties and ceremonies. The hospital is in a densely Hmong populated neighborhood, so their culture has influence with the health systems there. The shamans are used to treat a patient’s soul while a physician treats their physical body. Through this combination, the physician and his team work as partners with the shamans. In the article, one case included a Hmong leader being treated at the hospital. The leader needed a procedure done, but he wanted a shaman to perform some ceremonies as well. Miraculously, after the shaman performed his ceremonies, the leader had a speedy recovery, prompting the hospital to explore the role of shamans in their facilities.