W3 Reflection: A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

The article that I read dealt with the integration of Hmong Shamans to the hospital environment in California.  As programs across the nation are increasing its approach to racially diverse patient populations, a program to introduce Shamans to Westernized medical practices has become an effective way to deal with the large Hmong population at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California.  These Shamans are respected figures in Hmong culture who are regarded as the healers of this specific community.  These Shamans are altruistic in motives and they refuse Westernized standards of payment such as money and service.  Under this new program doctors and nurses at the hospital handle conditions with the human body, and certified Shaman works with the patient’s soul.  In contrast to biomedical beliefs on epidemiology and mental health, Hmong culture views illness through the spiritual body and its connections to a Supernatural world.  Spirits can capture the souls of the living and the role of the Shaman is to protect the or set free the souls of those that are ill.  This is accomplished through different symbolic ceremonies such as laying a sword on the door to protect spirits from entering the room of the ill or negotiating with these spirits in return for sacrificed animals such as pigs and roosters.  Patient rooms are transformed from regular living rooms and garages to culturally decorated environments fit for rituals.  This recent collaboration between Health professionals and cultural figures is an effort to cater to more ethnically diverse constituents such as the Hmong population in California’s Central Valley.  By offering services from different cultural healers, doctors hope to break the boundary of distrust and misunderstanding between westernized medicine and cultures with different health standards and practices.  As pointed out by Dr. McDiarmid, the integration helps keep the morale of the patients up which helps immensely in the healing efficacy with medicine.

One thought on “W3 Reflection: A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

  1. Hello Ronald,
    I found your subject of Shamans and article choice to be one of tremendous importance considering the fact that I have prior knowledge of Hmong culture! I find the medical practices and beliefs of individuals within the Hmong civilization to be extremely intriguing. Similarly in a prior medical anthropology course we read a novel titled “The spirit catches you and you fall down” about a Hmong child and the issues of western medical in relation to their own medical practices. In short the book taught me to consider the medical beliefs and practices of others because in many situations these may be the best alternatives for their survival.
    In contrast, when comparing Shamans to that of biomedical doctors I believe the only real differences are their approaches to medicine and medical treatment. To my knowledge a Shaman is not licensed like that of a medical doctor but may in some instances be beneficial to the patient’s health and well-being! In some instances just as the one mention within your reflection a Shaman’s purpose with Hmong culture is to free the body of any spiritual impurities. In terms of credibility and legitimacy I believe the Shamans are very efficient in their task and because of my lack of information on these individuals I am in no shape to question their accuracy! Great post!

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