Clinical Medical Anthropology

I picked this intersection of applied medical anthropology because this is the first anthropology class I have taken and I have found it very interesting. I was planning to look more into it and what a career in medical anthropology would mean and this is the perfect opportunity for me to do so! It still does pertain to my current future career plans (to be a physician’s assistant) at this point, but it could also change my future plans. If I were a clinical medical anthropologist working for a doctor or a physician’s assistant, taking an anthropological viewpoint would be very useful. As discussed in the lecture and other materials from this week, the anthropological approach can help medical professionals (such as doctors) determine what the best approaches are for certain patients and why already implemented approaches are not effective. As noted in the youtube video by tribal jazzman scholar, the point of medical anthropology, and clinical medical anthropology in particular, is to find the most effective means of solving medical problems and not taking an elite approach when it comes to other cultures. I think this would be very helpful in my career because I hope to be working with patients of various different cultures and do not want to come across as condescending and not understanding of how my medical recommendations relate to their beliefs and values. It also is very helpful when it comes to figuring out what is not working with medical implications especially when they may relate to culture. The tribal jazzman scholar video also discusses this with the concept of how boiling water was taught women to help villages from getting sick but it was not working because the people teaching did not realize water had a holy link to the people. Therefore, clinical medical anthropology is very important and will be very helpful in my future career.

Lecture: 6.1- “Applied Medical Anthropology”

“Medical Anthropology,” YouTube video, 7:55, posted by “TribalJazzman,” Feburary 18, 2011,

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  1. Amber Roberts says:

    I agree that clinical medical anthropology provides important views necessary to understand the important link between health care and cultural factors. People from different backgrounds have different cultural beliefs that directly affect their medical treatment. For example, we saw in the Tribal Jazzman video that E. coli was infecting the water of certain villages. Researchers then went to these villages to educate them on how to clean their drinking water by boiling it, but months later they found that none of the villagers were boiling their water. After the conducted interviews they found that the water possessed a holy spirit, and that they could not boil it because it would kill the spirit of the water. Because the researchers did not understand their cultural differences, the villages never implemented the practice to clean their water. However, if the researchers would have known that the villages would not boil their water, they could have changed their plan of action, such as providing the tribes with bottled water instead, or by changing the landscape and keeping the infected cattle feces away from areas where the run off would run into water sources. Not only are cultural beliefs important to understand, but also understanding factors such as socio-economic status. A doctor can prescribe a medication, but that doesn’t mean that the patient will be able to afford to get that prescription filled. Also, factors like religion could affect if a patient will actually take their prescribed birth control. Or when considering a culture that finds slenderness appealing, would patients take a medication that was likely to cause them to gain weight? There are many cultural factors to consider, and taking them all into account will allow physicians to provide the best possible care for their patients.

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