Clinical Medical Approach

Considering my future goals and current views and feelings towards health, clinical medical anthropology makes the best match. Not only do I agree with a shared wealth of knowledge and feel that more opinions can only help, I also feel it is important to consider other aspects of someone’s life before making assumptions about their health. These are only a few of the characteristics I hope to carry into the medical field as, hopefully, a future physician. Clinical anthropologists as talked about in lecture work with health care professionals in a clinical setting, such as doctors to enhance the patient experience and health management to clear up these assumptions. The anthropologist looks outside of the doctor’s realm and considers cultural and social aspects of the patient’s life. This allows for a different view of the sick role for the doctor. Instead of just analyzing the symptoms themselves, it can be better understood why the patient feels worse in the mornings ie: they don’t eat breakfast regularly or maybe even why they didn’t come to seek help earlier (job problems, lack of money, no transportation, etc). There can be many reasons why someone is feeling sick resulting in a variety of sick role experiences.

I feel that this view on healthcare is very important. I found an example online that helps support my opinion. Basically a Mexican HIV positive man and his young son come to the doctor. The man lost his wife to AIDS the past year and is just now getting to the doctor. At first, the doctor just assumes that the man knows very minimally about HIV and its consequences and it questioning why he has not brought his son in yet. After following an anthropologist and her analysis, it is found that the man knows very well of HIV and what it can do. Lack of care for his son came from his low paying, night shift job that made it difficult for them to attend the doctor and receive care. Instead of a cultural misunderstanding as the doctor assumed, it was a socioeconomic situation that prevented the care. Sometimes I feel as though doctors just assume that if someone is not getting care right away, they don’t want it or don’t understand the circumstances. As far as I am concerned, most people will “self treat” as we talked about earlier in the semester and will WebMD the situation. Usualy, they will Google the symptoms, medications, long-term affects, etc, if they have access to such information to find out information. Patients are not always unknowledgeable about the situation at hand, it can be a misunderstanding stemming from how the situation at hand is viewed.


Kleinman, Arthur. “Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix It.” PLOS Medicine:. October 24, 2006. Accessed August 9, 2014.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Colleen Drabek says:

    I found the story about the man with HIV very interesting. I loved what you had to say about doctors overlooking the reason why people do not get care sooner. Money is indeed a big issue. If someone is already not feeling good and missing work because of it, then they are not exactly prone to going to the doctor, which will cost them a lot more money and result in undue stress.
    Clinical medical anthropologists could also look at the fact that the man might be in denial. After seeing his wife die, he might not want to go to the doctor in fear of receiving bad news. It is possible that the man was somewhat ostracized by his community for having HIV and doesn’t want his son to go through the same thing by becoming diagnosed with HIV. It is possible that the man is trying to protect his son. Some people might see protecting your child as taking them to the doctor to get the physical care they need. In other cultures it might be more important to protect your child by not harming them emotionally. The father might be worried about how being diagnosed with HIV could harm is son and his ability to live a normal life.

  2. Devin Jay-Garfein says:

    Anya, I think you did an amazing job defining and explaining clinical anthropology. Also, the fact that you want to be a physician and you are already understanding and aware of the different health situations that people go through is great. It is very important that doctors are aware of a patient’s whole life. I think that your breakfast example was a great way of explaining it. If a patient feels sick in the morning it could have multiple reasons why, hormone imbalances, not eating breakfast, and not getting enough sleep. I like the fact that you went a step further to explain why they may have those issues. Those could happen because of crazy job hours and lack of income to pay for three meals a day. In my post I did not even mention lack of money, but that is a huge problem. In our economy there is even more income inequality now and receiving medical help is very expensive. People have to choose between medication and food sometimes, and it does not help when their doctors do not understand that their finical resources are lacking, and they are just trying to get by. Having a low income is a major health risk, doctors need to understand their patients and not judge or guilt them for not receiving enough treatment. My only other opinion on your example is that the man may not want to receive treatment because it reminds him of his wife. He could still be grieving and dealing with his own health and his sons could bring up more pain.

  3. Krystn Hartner says:

    Anya, yours and mine post were very similar and I can relate to what you stated throughout it. The story that you talked about was the same one that I had in my post and I completely agree that sometimes doctors do jump to conclusions when examining a patient. Applying clinical anthropology approaches could help them understand the patients more and look at other views besides the same medicine for everyone. An example that I didn’t put in my article was the eating breakfast regularly. It is a good example for question asking, but I do believe that a doctor would ask that without going the anthropology route. To make it more from a clinical anthropologist view would be to examine where they get the breakfast from and possibly who makes it/if they do any cultural traditions to prepare their food. Asking questions like these will make the patient feel more comfortable and also give the doctor more information to work with. Clinical anthropology should be strongly encouraged in the medical field by doctors and other medical professionals. I am going into the medical field, hoping to be a doctor, and from this class I will try to apply new approaches that we have learned to interact better with patients.

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