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

The article that I decided to reflect on upon for this blog post is, “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul.” This article discusses the impact of introducing shamans at a hospital in Merced, California. By introducing shamans it serves as a way to bridge the gap between Merced health community and the Hmong community. The Hmong community heavily relies on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses and hospital of Merced seems to be understanding of that. Holistically, the healers in this scenario are actually the shamans who perform prayers and sacred ceremonies for the patient, including soul calling and getting rid off the evil spirit. They work alongside with health professionals like doctors and nurses to cater towards the betterment of the patient’s health. It assures the Hmong community to be accepting and trusting of western medicine facilities and in doing so the patient is put in a positive mood, which is most cases makes the healing process a lot easier. You can see that the public health is valued in this kind of setting because health providers are willing to learn and be accepting of unfamiliar or unusual cultural practices. And so the Merced hospital is actually practicing what known as Medical Pluralism where multiples sectors coexist together for the betterment of the community. This is beneficiary for the Hmong community because it gives them a sense of belonging especially as immigrants or minorities in this California town. The overlap exists between the Folk sector and the Professional sector. Normally, health professionals and alternative healers tend to distance themselves from each other even though there is no documented tension between the two groups. By having an overlap between these two sectors shows that the community is progressive and willing to change for the patients instead of themselves. They want to jump out of the norm to form new norms. Even though this article is not recent, I hope that it has succeeded in encourage other health facilities to follow the same or a similar approach.


5 thoughts on “W3 Reflection: A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

  1. Mariam, I enjoyed your summary on Shaman’s being introduced into hospitals where western medicine is being practiced almost exclusively. I think this is a great step and should be explored further for other hospitals to include shamans or other spiritual or holistic approaches.

    It’s hard to compare shamans to biomedical doctors or doctors who use western medicine because they are two completely different approaches and branches of medicine. Comparing the two to determine which is better in terms of healing the patient seems misguided and an inadequate form of analyzing the successfulness of either the shamans or other doctors. Similar to biomedical doctors, individuals can approach the hospital for treatment and specify if they prefer the shaman or traditional doctor just as any other individual in any other hospital can as well.

    Although I mostly rely on western medicine for my healthcare, I also think it’s important to supplement it with spiritual healing as well. Maybe not to the extent that Shamans do, but I also rely on praying for healing as well. I think these healers are just as credible and can be just effective as regular doctors. The fact that this hospital is reaching out to include all the individuals within the area is very important. Making everyone feel comfortable enough to reach out and ask for healthcare is very critical especially in today’s world. Ultimately, the end result for all doctors is to heal their patients. The mode in which healers take to heal their patients, whether it be holistically or the western medicine route, is far less important than treating their patients fairly and in a justified, respectable manner.

  2. I agree that the addition Shamans or other spiritual healers into hospitals in the United States where almost all medical facilities solely practice western medicine would be greatly beneficial to bridging the cultural gap between the hospital and the surrounding community. I believe for many people of a different cultural heritage or belief system a spiritual healer can be of great assistance in helping them feel more comfortable when being treated by a doctor in the United States. In terms of how much direct effect these spiritual healers have towards the patient on a biological level may never be fully understood. I believe they certainly help put the patient’s mind at ease when undergoing a procedure and this can certainly be invaluable when undergoing the healing process. This is why I agree that they should be present in all hospitals which see people from a multitude of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Many hospitals in the United States already have areas such as chapels where individuals may go to pray for their loved ones during times of uncertainty, so it would only be appropriate for a hospital to have an individual on hand to facilitate the religious and cultural needs of someone of a different background.

  3. Hello Mariam,

    I found your post very interesting and insightful of this article. You did a really good job summarizing the Shaman’s and their role in the hospital. In Western medicine today, doctors are all about definitions of disease and medication as the major treatment plan. In this article they talk about a more holistic approach. While holistic approach is an approach that takes place in medicine in the Western Culture it is not a credible or well-recognized approach among most doctors anymore. This is interesting because the healers they talk about in this article are from California, just like the article I wrote about where the healers were clowns working in hospitals in New York. Theses articles show us how different medicine has become and how doctors are looked at differently now, and many types of healers are no longer appreciated. In this article you wrote about the healers performing spiritual and sacred ceremonies on the patients to try to get rid of the evil in them. Now most people would call that evil an illness or disease and this practice of trying to heal them would not be accepted. While back in the day these healers seem to be credible and well respected, in todays society and medicine I do not feel that these healers would be looked at as legitimate no matter if they were effective or not. Today most people in medicine would say that the effectiveness of these healers is non-existent or “in a patients head” they would not be looked at as credible healers.

  4. I agree that the involvement of shamans in western medicine is a great idea with positive effects. We know that attitude does affect a person’s ability to heal, but I believe the connection between optimism and improved health is a lot strong than we believe. If the shamans give the patients the confidence and comfort they didn’t get from the medical doctor, then healing will undoubtedly be expedited. While western medicine focuses almost entirely on the biological explanation for illness as well as the implementation of medicine to cure it, the shamans heal by employing techniques that confront the spirit world, and the spiritual explanation for disease. It is said that the ritualistic practices shamans use to heal can be very effective, and many people swear by this form of “medicine”. While some might not see how engaging in spiritual rituals can affect a change in health, a patient’s strong belief in the effectiveness of shaman healing could result in a sort of placebo effect because they believe so strongly that they’ve been treated. I think the placebo effect is like attitude in this way, believing you are cured might be all it takes, and if the shamans healing is just a “trick” of the mind, well that trick of the mind solved your problem and it was therefore effective.

  5. When looking at a shaman and comparing him to a doctor in western medicine they is a wide gap. This gap is even hinted at in the title “a doctor for disease, a shaman for the soul” showing that they don’t practice the same sort of methods. This is where western doctors diagnose and treat people based on tests and charts. Where as shamans treat people with chants and rituals. One example of this is with soul calling, they view the source of a persons ailment as being the soul has left and can’t find its way back to the body. There is nothing wrong with using shamans in connection with western medicine because as long as it is helping the patient then I can’t find fault in it. As far as legitimacy goes there is no scientific way to explain any positive effects these rituals may have on the patients but we have priests at many hospitals for similar reasons. So medically I don’t think that the shamans help the patients but mentally they help them by putting them at ease. But will shamans ever replace doctors? No, defiantly not in the developed world at least. Because at the end of the day science rules over superstition in the treatment of disease.

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