Clinical Medical Anthropology

I chose clinical medical anthropology for a number of reasons. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been interested in the medical field and wanted a job doing something involving medicine. My dad is a forensic pathologist and I’ve always been especially interested in that specific field of medicine and also the forensic aspect of it. Since I was sixteen years old, I have volunteered in the hospital my dad works in and have enjoyed it more than any other job I’ve been a part of and from that point on, I knew I wanted to have a career in the medical field. It’s taken a lot of thought and consideration but I have decided to go into nursing as a career so I could be a part of the medical field I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

Taking an anthropological viewpoint can be very useful in the medical field. For instance, understanding what illnesses affect some cultures more than others (such as PMS in the united states) can be very beneficial in effectively treating illnesses and it is very important that clinicians and other care providers fully understand these medical differences in cultures. It is also important that they understand how different cultures value various types of healing, such as faith healing or emotional healing rather than just biological healing alone. Further understanding of these values in cultures can allow clinicians to more effectively fulfill the needs of their patients and more fully understand the illness or disease the patient is suffering from. An anthropological viewpoint can also be useful in understanding the difference between disease and illness and how the two are related in some cases, which can also allow clinicians to further fulfill their patients’ needs and also further understand what their patient is going through and how to treat their illness.

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  1. Albert Tamayo says:

    Ashley, I also chose clinical medical anthropology for similar reasons. Much of my immediate family is involved with medicine, so I became interested in it later in life. I completely agree with your assessment of the importance of the medical anthropological perspective in the clinical world. I think you are right in that much of what makes it so important is recognizing the cultural influences that affect how someone views illness and health, however, I believe there is much more to it than that.

    I also believe that the medical anthropological perspective is necessary for anyone in healthcare to properly assess a patient’s social and economic influences. If someone is very ill and chose to wait until a very late disease state to visit the doctor, it is important for clinicians to understand why. Perhaps their family scared them away from western doctors or they simply did not have the means to pay for the care. Getting a proper understanding of the entire situation of the patient will help clinicians properly communicate with the patient and come to a meaningful treatment or therapy regimen. Without understanding the perspective of the patient, a doctor may make the wrong assumptions and a well intentioned treatment may have long lasting, unintended, or undesirable results.

  2. Victoria Heilmann says:

    I completely agree with the various ways you stated medical anthropology is very useful in clinical medical anthropology and in nursing. It is very important to know what types of illness affect what groups of people more and how faith healing plays into the wellness of a patient rather than just biological and medicinal healing. I also think, however, that medical anthropology is very important in understanding the complete demographic of your patient you are treating. When deciding the treatment, you can use an anthropological viewpoint to see what will and will not work based on culture, faith, socioeconomic standing, and various other aspects of their lives. Their point of medical anthropology is to sort of step back and take the medical approach that is not so condescending and overly westernized and medicated. Anthropological approaches look at all different elements of the person to see what will be most successful in their life. If something is not working, it may be a reason you are not even thinking of as a registered nurse trained by traditional westernized medicine. The issue may lie in religion or culture of the patient that you are completely unaware of. Other than that, I think that you did a great job summarizing how medical anthropology is so unbelievably useful in this area.

  3. Pamela Perez says:

    I find it super awesome that your dad is a forensic pathologist, because it’s the career that I too have chosen to pursue for the longest time. Though I did not grow up around a strong medical influence within my family, I have been able to see how clinical anthropology is incredibly essential to all aspects of medicine. Knowing how culture and societal perceptions influence the way that certain diseases are treated/ seen by the individuals, society or doctors is detrimental to global aid of health disparities. I definitely think you hit the hammer on the nail when it comes to how anthropology is so important and helpful to the medical field. Especially since you are going into nursing, imagine the changes one can make thinking as an anthropologist, but with the skills of a nurse. You’d have all the trump cards in your hand!

    That’s definitely something you slightly overlooked-the benefits of being well rounded not only in the clinical setting, but in the anthropological aspects as well. Understanding your patient as more than just a biological entity and as a human with cultural values, convictions, perceptions etc… will help how you treat them or how you help them recognize why they need treatment and what exactly it will do. Nobody wants to be treated as a “thing” than can be fixed with a few prescriptions. We want doctors to take the time to understand our ailments and to sit down with us and discuss what it means in the long-range or how societies perceptions may change the way we see ourselves-whether we see ourselves as viruses, parasites with an incurable disease, or as normal humans with temporary sickness. To help us classify the difference between disease, illness, sickness, and many more.

    I definitely would love to meet your father, however cheesy it may sound and extremely weird. Forensic Pathologists aren’t people you find on a day-today basis unless you’re in a hospital, morgue, or somewhere along those lines. Other than that, I hope all goes well in your pursuit!

  4. Ashley Webb says:

    Similar to you, ever since I was a little kid, I have always wanted to pursue a future career in medicine. I also have had a pretty good idea of what field of medicine that I have wanted to go into which is pediatrics. But I do agree that regardless of what aspect of health care we end up in, ultimately you are correct, it is important to look at each situation through the eyes of the patient and not our own, as difficult as that may be. This is why I, too, chose clinical medical anthropology. As we know from our society, everyone comes from a different cultural background and each culture is very unique. I, too, agree that it is important to be able to fully treat a patients’ illness or disease, it is crucial to know their cultural background. Also, I think in order for a patient to heal to their full potential, it is important to respect their cultures’ chosen way of healing. In addition, I do believe that doctors need to be very conscious and aware of the cultural differences and backgrounds of each individual patient because it will ultimately enable them to treat them in the best way that they can.

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