I have learned a lot through taking this course. Some of the issues brought up in this class are detailed problems that may not have come to my attention had it not been for this class. This course covered a vast amount of information, beginning with understanding race versus ethnicity in the first week, to learning about the human biome, specifically regarding biomedicine. I will take all of this information with me as I pursue a career in nursing. Thinking of all of the aspects of medical anthropology when working with patients will only help me to become the best patient care provider that our health care system needs.
The main aspect of the course that I liked best was that of culture and medicine. I found the book which we read “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” by Anne Fadiman, to be incredibly important in the effect that this class has. The novel focused on health care for refugees in the U.S. and their interactions with our nation’s western medical world. Specifically, the book described the story of the Lee family’s troubles with their wish to use their own culture’s medical remedies and the aspects in which biomedicine interfered with this (Fadiman, 1997). The incorporation of this story within this course was greatly influential in the understanding of how real these issues are in today’s world. I thought this was an important aspect to focus on because it proves how much an integrated medical system is needed. Anne Fadiman pointed this out with her idea to have a cross-cultural medical system where, say a shaman, could be working with a doctor of biomedicine in order to provide the desired treatment of a certain patient (Fadiman, 1997). Ideas like these are what will get us further in the improvement that is needed within our health care system.
Although a new and improved, integrated system is needed to properly care for our diverse population in the United States, we also first need to focus on original doctor-patient care. This has to do with doctors in biomedicine seeing patients as illnesses to fix, rather than as real people. Another example within the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” is when the young girl first goes to the emergency room and after the doctor talks to her, he realizes that all of the notes refer to the girl as a “he” (Fadiman, 1997). This doctor was too focused on the biological and medical side of treating the patient, so much so that he easily forgot about the social issues in the case, the patient’s gender. This is something that is happening all throughout biomedicine, whether it be in our own culture or when dealing with a patient from a different culture. Another important case to point out from this course is the fact that biomedicine tends to ignore social, political, and economic aspects of a patient’s life and only thinks of the cause of a disease to be biologically driven. We, meaning doctors in the United States, need to start to consider social, political, and economic issues to be influences of disease and illness. This is something that we pointed out in the lecture regarding structural violence and the significant effect this can have on any patient’s diagnosis, cross-culturally (Gabriel, 2016). This needs to be more recognized within biomedicine as much as it is in health care systems of other cultures.
One article that I think would be a positive addition to this course is that of Tim O’Shea’s titled “Conventional Medicine vs. Holistic: A World of Difference.” This article is the perfect precursor, or beginning article, to this course. It goes over the main differences between medicine of different cultures and how this is relevant in our biomedical health care system (O’Shea, 2001). The article even goes as far as to explain why our biomedical system is the way that it is, in thinking of diseases specifically as illnesses of different parts of a whole (O’Shea, 2001). Again, it is a very basic article stating the differences within our biomedicine, but it gives a different, unique perspective to any new student beginning this course.
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
Gabriel, Cynthia. “Critical Medical Anthropological Theory.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. N.p., 2015. Web 3 Aug. 2016
O’Shea, Tim. “Conventional Medicine vs. Holistic: A World of Difference.” Cancer Tutor. 2001. https://www.cancertutor.com/conventional-medicine-vs-holistic-a-world-of-difference/.