I chose to reflect on the New York Times article, A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul. This article really spoke to me, because it shows the increase in the importance of cultural competency in the medical field. The article discussed how the Hmong population often fears Western medicine, so many hospitals are adopting the practice of including Shaman healers in the treatment of their patients. The Shaman healers, in turn, are trained on basic medical knowledge, such as on the existence of germs. This not only puts the patients at ease at the hospital, but this also makes it so certain practices of Western medicine are not rejected or feared. It creates accountability and trust with the physicians.
The Hmong settled in California after the Vietnam war, many of them were refugees. Surgery, anesthesia and blood transfusions are not permitted in Hmong culture, which is why building trust with the population is important for Western doctors. The morbidity of the Hmong population was growing, because they were avoiding medical interventions necessary for diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Shamans have a special connection to the spirit world. Shamans focus on healing the soul which in turn heals the physical body. They engage in many spiritual rituals to protect the soul of the person from wandering off or being stolen from bad spirits, which they believe is the source of illness and disease. These rituals include sacrifices, gongs and negotiations with the spirit world on part of the Shaman. Which components of the rituals are permitted vary depending on the hospital.
The hospital believes that ‘social support’ can help in the healing process of patients. They used the placebo affect as an example of this. If a person feels more relaxed due to their culture and religious beliefs in a setting like the hospital, they are more likely to make a recovery.