The article, “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul” talks about a hospital in California that permits additional treatment by shamans for patients who request their services. This is a combination of traditional and biomedical medicine and can provide comfort, community, reassurance, and other approaches to healing for patients. It began in efforts to repair the hospital’s relationship with the local Hmong population and improve the treatment of patients who hold deep, spiritual beliefs that can be a deterrent for Western treatment of ailments. By combining the two methods, a more rounded approach which addresses both the spiritual and physical well-being of people is found. The healers in this article are “Certified shamans, with their embroidered jackets and official badges, have the same unrestricted access to patients given to clergy members.” They interact with their patients by using traditional sometimes holistic medicine to help combat illness. The slideshow that accompanies the article shows different methods used by shaman to bring health and wellness to people.
In this case, the Shamans are working within the American health system. This article, published in 2009, describes this as being the first hospital to allow this additional form of treatment and unrestricted access for shamans. However, the Hmong culture has elaborate rituals that “are tame versions of elaborate rituals that abound in Merced, especially on weekends, when suburban living rooms and garages are transformed into sacred spaces and crowded by over a hundred friends and family members.” They believe that people become ill when the soul has wandered off and bring in shamans to help return their soul to them and eventually restore their good health. Unlike Western medicine, the Hmong people attempt to restore spiritual balance.
I truly enjoyed reading about the exchange of trust between shaman and Western doctors. By improving their relationship and adding additional methods of treatment, they are providing a stronger and more well-rounded treatment base for the patients and expanding their own knowledge in the process. Though it is not without its pitfalls, this system is a good step towards cross-cultural communication.