W6 Reflection: Clinical Medical Anthropology

I chose this topic because I hope to one day work in a clinic as a health care professional, but of what specific nature, I do not yet know. The articles and the lecture from the course materials make it quite obvious how an anthropological viewpoint would be valuable in a clinical setting. Most hospitals receive a variety of patients who hail from different cultural backgrounds or socioeconomic statuses, which can be difficult for health care professionals to take into account when they provide treatment. In the lecture, a picture is painted of an applied medical anthropologist. They are depicted as a mediator between the doctor and the patient, who helps both parties understand each other, and take cultural specifics into consideration. The article by Kleinman and Benson provides excellent examples and analyses of these interactions between doctors, patients, and medical anthropologists. In the article, the issue of cultural competency is explained, and how it affects the efficiency of health care systems.  A medical anthropologist is charged with maintaining this cultural competency in their clinic. Kleinman and Benson provide a specific example of this role being carried out in a narrative about a Mexican man who has HIV. It is observed that the man does not regularly visit the clinic for treatment for his condition, and he also does not bring his young son, who is also HIV positive. This behavior was initially attributed to the man’s lack of understanding regarding HIV and AIDS, because of his ethnicity and possible language barrier. After investigation by a medical anthropologist, it was found that the man had complete understanding of the disease, but was not bringing himself and his son to the clinic for socioeconomic reasons, because he worked night shifts at a low-paying job. Through the medical anthropologist’s analysis, the man’s reason for not receiving treatment was found, and he was better serviced by the clinic. I believe this example is a perfect depiction of the value of a medical anthropologist.

Arthur Kleinman and Peter Benson. “Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix It” (PLoS Med 2006) 3(10) e294

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030294


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