Clinical Medical Anthropology

The area of medical anthropology that interested me was clinical medical anthropology. Working in a hospital setting with medical professionals but particularly working directly with the patients themselves is what is most interesting to me. Clinical medical anthropologist will use a variety of methods to examine health problems within the clinical setting. Harvard Medical school describes medical anthropology as a sub discipline of social anthropology focused on studies of illness, healing, medical care, and biotechnologies across societies (Harvard 2014). Lecture 1 video describes the theory and methods used by anthropologists, looking at the macro-level structure: cultural and biological ecology as well as the micro-level experiences: health practices and individual experience. This knowledge from a wide array of backgrounds allows anthropologists to diagnoses and treat problems in virtually every setting.

Clinical anthropologists work in tandem with tradition western medical professionals, they emphasize the cultural context of the illness experience. This is an area of western medicine that isn’t looked at as much compared to biomedical treatment options. Taking and applying a clinical anthropologists viewpoint to a traditional western doctors methods would be beneficial for the clinic and the patient. This course has showed many examples of the different cultural practices around the world from shamans to medicine men to clown doctors here in the United States. Being aware and understanding of different health practices used in other cultures gives the physician a better chance at treating the patient and the clinical anthropologist can act as the “cultural mediator” role referred to in lecture 1 video. Another benefit a clinical anthropologist might bring to a traditional doctor in western medicine is the focus on the illness experience. The Fibromyalgia Type A personality article from week 4 shows one individuals frustration with the cultural perception of her illness experience. Western medicine had generalized her illness and failed to treat many of her symptoms. Taking an anthropological viewpoint could help many western medical professionals treat and understand the cultural context of the illness experience and provide a much more holistic approach to healing than currently seen.


Harvard Medical School. “Medical Anthropology” Accessed August 5 2014.

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  1. Shardae Herriford says:

    I want to become a physician, this topic is relevant to me being a successful at it. Clinical Medical Anthropology is important to understanding the cultural background when a patient is experiencing a health problem. I learned from this class that illness and diseases can be on a how a culture views it. A patient problem can be due to thier work and home environment.

    I agree with having experience working in a hospital. Im with patients daily in their rooms and in the emergency. Having this experience will make me better Doctor. Since we are form Western culture we tend to be biased and ignorant to different exposure other than our own. There are many factors that play into affect when you assisting someone medically. So clinically a health professional has to take the stand point of all the views biologically, public health, socially and culturally. After these factors are considered then a person has the best possible chance for recovery.

    Clincial medical Anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer has a way to deliver healthcare for free to one of the poorest nations in Haiti. THis ca be used in Hospitals to help hospital magangement and staff with the health care system. Each medical professioal could benefit only for thier patient but for themselves as well.

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