Clinical Medical Anthropology

I was particularly interested in the section of medical anthropology that was referred to as “clinical anthropology.” This intersection was described as anthropologists who work with medical professionals on ways to improve health care and management, and who mainly work to emphasize  the cultural context of the illness experience. In other words, these anthropologists work along side doctors practicing western medicine, and bring to the table a  more cultural approach to the table. Personally I found this aspect of anthropology very appealing because I’m hoping to be a primary health care provider myself, and find that knowing the cultural context you are working with/in to be crucial to the care you are providing. One of my favorite aspects of this course has been its emphasis on cultural context and knowing the environment you are working in, in order to have a full grasp on the problem at hand and the barriers that may prevent you from solving it. As a future health care provider, and also as a first generation Persian-American, I know that recognition, respect, and acceptance of different cultures is crucial to providing the best care possible. As stated in an article by University College London, “medical Anthropology examines how health and well-being are socially and culturally constituted in comparative and transnational contexts and the ways in which culture influences the experience of illness, the practice of medicine and the process of healing for the individual and community.” Therefore, an anthropologist is necessary in a clinical environment so that this cultural dimension can also be taken into account. As stated in lecture, with their viewpoint an anthropologist can act as a “cultural mediator,” between the patient and the doctor. With their training in participant observation and anthropological theory, the anthropologist helps to look at the problem at a macro level so as to come up with the most effective solution for the issue at hand.

University College London. “Medical Anthropolgy.” ( Accessed August 4, 2014)

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  1. Tyler Lambert says:

    As someone who is also perusing a primary care health provider I liked your reflection on the benefits medical anthropology can have in western medicine, particularly bringing a more cultural approach to the table. This is not something seen very often in our culture today. With the melting pot of cultures here in the United States it is very important to be aware, understanding, and accepting of other cultures to provide a holistic approach to their health care. When looking at healthcare in different cultures one big difference I have seen throughout the course is the varied perceptions of illness. This course has shown examples of the importance to treating the individual perception of illness and treating the individual perception in a cultural context can lead to better more efficient health care. The individual perception of illness is something that has interested me a lot during this course. Working in a hospital today the individual perception is almost never taken into account, and if so its generally because a patient is being labeled as “milking the illness” or “babying”. I enjoyed seeing other cultures prioritize the human perception as I always thought it was never taken into account in our culture. I think medical anthropologists working with western doctors would benefit not only the cultural understanding but also treating the illness experience of the patient.

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