Clinical Medical Anthropology

I chose clinical medical anthropology because I want to do clinical work. Currently I am thinking about being a clinical social worker so that I can work in psych wards. I am interested in doing in-patient care. I want to help people, and let them feel understood. I know people with mental illnesses from different backgrounds and sometimes there are cultural differences. Taz pointed out in the lecture that clinical work emphasize the cultural contrast. I think that being a clinical medical anthropologists could be very helpful to have in a psych wards. They can help explain the circumstances to patients and their families so they feel understood.

Here is an example of what an anthropologist would do for a doctor and patient. There is a family who just moved here from India. They are bringing in their sixteen year old daughter for a check-up. During the appointment the daughter asks about going on birth control medications. This puts the mother into a frenzy. The daughter tries to calm her and says it is to help her with her period. She wants to have a shorter cycle with less flow and most of her new friends are on the pill anyways. The doctor then starts asking questions about her period and if she is on any other medications. The mother is very upset that the doctor would even consider giving her daughter a prescription. The doctor then asks if she could speak alone with the daughter. At this point the mother is ready to take her daughter and leave. The doctor then calls in a medical anthropologist to help ease the situation. The clinical anthropologist then comes in and has everyone sit down. She explains that it is part of the doctors’ job to inform the family about medications, but they do not have to take them. Also when the doctor asked to speak to the daughter alone it was to try to make her feel more comfortable talking about birth control and sex. She just wanted to get all the accurate information and could tell the mother’s emotions were a distraction. In India there is a stigma with birth control and sex education that is different than the United States. The clinical anthropologists just tried to explain the new culture to the family.

Karim, Taz. Lecture 6.1 Applied Medical Anthropology. Video. , 2014.

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  1. Jenny Hallesy says:

    Hi Devin,
    I really enjoyed the example you gave about how an anthropologist is helpful in the medical setting. I too strongly agree with you about how important it is to have an anthropological background of some sort in order to improve the relationship between doctor and patient. However, I do also believe that if physicians were able to spend more time with their patients, they would be able to get to know their patients more and be able to better understand their cultural background and how it relates to their current lifestyles. This would help to improve the way that doctors work with their patients by exploring more into their cultural history in order to get a proper diagnosis rather than just basing their decision off of what they see and lab tests. It is not totally uncommon for a clinician to overlook symptoms that do not fit with their initial diagnosis. Had they dug a little deeper into the person’s history, the doctor may have properly diagnosed the first time and not overlooked any symptoms and instead, quickly recognized them due to the realization that people that share a cultural background with this patient shared similar symptoms and illnesses. Unfortunately, due to expenses, it isn’t realistic for doctors to spend excessive amounts of time with one patient and not getting a chance to help many others.

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