W7: Understanding a Holistic Approach

This course provided me with much clarity on the dynamics of healthcare within the context of the United States and in medical systems around the world. This gives me direction and understanding of the issues in modern medicine. I have come to understand that biomedicine has its flaws and I also have come to understand the history and problems with these flaws.  The theme I internalized is that many biomedical doctors disregard completely the feelings and cultures of the very people they try to treat and this is proven multiple times in the course. For example, Hemed in Zanzibar had trouble relating to western biomedical doctors and refused to take his medication for his schizophrenia. He had a completely different explanatory model for his condition. Because the biomedical doctors didn’t take that into account when treating him, he did not follow any of their protocols (Jenkins and Barrett 2004). The treatment of the Inuit also stuck me with weight. This was a very recent event which attempted to dismantle all the cultural framework the Inuit had for giving birth. Birth itself is a sacred happening, to interfere with it is to strike a culture at its core (Inuit Women’s Association of Canada 1990). This particularly affected me a lot, because it was very recent and it was caused by Canadian physicians.  All this is also not mentioning Lia’s poor treatment at MCMC hospital were poor cultural understanding eventually lead to  loss of her cognitive functioning (Fadiman 1997). Furthermore, the Flexnor reports also struck a chord with me. Many educational medical institutions were shut down implicitly because of racist, sexist, and bigoted philosophies. Even if the intention was to promote empiricist based medicine, it is not the reality of what happened.  There’re hundreds of more examples but the basic theme is the same: lack of cultural understanding by medical professionals has significant and dire consequences on patients in the United States and abroad.

I feel fairly guilty. This is the field in which I wish to have a career in but I had no idea of the problems and shortcoming of the medical world. Regardless, now that I have the information hopefully I may be put into a position in which I may make a positive difference.  Singer M puts the issue into perspective; he discusses this issue in “Why Does Juan Garcia Have a Drinking problem”. Here he puts the issue into perspective forcing the frame of a holistic approach to understanding the qualms of patients (Singer et al. 1992). He does in the context using the example of someone with a drinking problem.  I feel as I need to implement this perspective in order to be of any benefit in the medical world. A final resource to cement this point is a A Taste Of My Own Medicine by Edward Rosenbaum. This is a book with a plot similar to the movie I reviewed. It is about a doctor who gets a disease and becomes the patient, this resource would be very useful in understanding both points of the coin in a medical setting. All in all, the main theme I have achieved from this course if understanding that strict biomedical approach is not holistic and cultural context and personal context must be understood from any patient in order for real treatment to occur.

Singer, Merrill, Freddie Valentín, Hans Baer, and Zhongke Jia. 1992. “Why Does Juan García Have A Drinking Problem? The Perspective Of Critical Medical Anthropology”. Medical Anthropology 14 (1): 77-108.

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