Ethnomedical Approach

I believe that the ethnomedical approach will be the most useful for me during this class, but more importantly in my future in the medical field. Because of my future career plan to be a medical professional, I think it will be essential to have a deep understanding of different health systems, and be able to compare and contrast each to decide what system is best for myself as well as my patients. I will need to be able to explain different types of healing that I can perform for or assist in for my patients, as well as understand what health really is and what health means to my patients.


I think the distinction between disease and illness is a quite obvious one, especially after explained in the lecture. Disease is a diagnosis from a medical professional. Illness, however, is much more complex. It is definitely rooted in physiological principles, but has many other factors such as a patient’s culture, mental state, or environment. Symptoms of illness can be due to a disease, but also these other factors unrelated to the disease, or lack there of.


From the beginning of the article, I suspected they were talking about the American culture; as they were described as living between Canada and Mexico, and have a highly developed market economy in which much time is spent in economic pursuits. It was also another hint that a large focus of the culture is on appearance. My suspicions were completely confirmed, however, when I reached the paragraph describing latipso, which was describing our hospitals.


The ritual describing the temples says so much about our culture. It unveils the public fear of hospitals, and that it isn’t a place of healing, but a place of danger; one in which you go to die. It also represents our economic culture in which no matter how sick someone is, they will not be admitted or treated unless they have insurance, or at least proof that they have the means to pay for their treatment and care. It also describes the secrecy and embarrassment of the human body in American culture. One in which, upon entering a hospital, we are faced with not only physical, but mental trauma as we are forced to give up our privacy in personal matters regarding the human body such as showering.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jesse Miller says:

    I feel that in the article, miner talked about how people were eager to go to the “medicine man” in order to help themselves or make themselves look better and fit more in society. I do agree with your addition of the economics implication or the Nacirema, economics plays a big part in their culture, but they still deal with it to try to save themselves from sickness or social shunning. It is an unfortunate thing of how much economics controls how people can go to hospitals and save themselves from any illness or disease may be affecting them, and how they might try to choose either keeping their money and trying to stave off the illness or go and get medical help. It is also interesting how you connected the article with the ideology that the human body is something to be ashamed of, but it also talked about how you could change your body to be something more socially pleasing, as in getting plastic surgery or even dental work. I did not think to apply the idea of mental pressure into the act of personal hygiene, it does make sense that since we view the body as something to be ashamed of that you be forced to shower, brush your teeth, and apply deodorant.

  2. Matt Meranda says:

    Although medical science and technology has progressed massively since Miner wrote Nacerima, there is much about the American ideology behind health, self-image, and medical care that has remained static. The obsessiveness over health that Miner describes is undoubtedly a fundamental part of the American subconscious, and this obsessiveness was what I chose to highlight in my reflection post. However, the parallels between Miner’s described latipso—the hospitals of half a century ago—and modern medical institutions are striking. In particular, the ambivalence with which these “temples” are regarded is one such remaining sentiment of the average American. Indeed, those who can afford it are quite eager still to receive the best and most cutting-edge medical treatment available despite need or the availability of comparable procedures at lower cost. Further, the abandonment of fundamental notions of privacy and autonomy that patients experience during their internment in the latipso remains today; many even regard this as an unavoidable aspect of receiving the best medical care possible. Though the disrobing may be humiliating for example, this process is often seen as requisite upon entering a hospital (latipso) and is accepted without question or protest.
    It needs to be mentioned however, that the parallels need not be made so cynically. The Torturous procedures that medical professionals administer to their patients may certainly seem from an outsiders uninformed perspective to be horribly harsh (I can’t imagine how calmly I would react to being shown an open-heart surgery out of context). Nonetheless, these procedures are effective, and a fair proportion of those who undergo them survive and flourish. In this way, Miner’s imposed outsider’s perspective is both hauntingly revealing as well as to a degree misleading.

  3. sarah rousakis says:

    I do agree with your decision for choosing the ethnomedical approach, however, I chose the ecological approach because I am very much interested in how humans adapt to their environment and how is affects them physically, mentally and emotionally. After traveling to the Dominican Republic and learning about their customs and traditions regarding health, I was made aware of how important it is to recognize and respect those traditions in order to gain the trust of your patient and be able to treat them effectively. For example, most Dominican’s believe that if they make a mixture of special herbs when they are sick that this will cure them, and if a physician prescribes medication for them they will refuse to take it because they do not trust doctors. Their faith and trust is completely in spirits and they believe that spirits will make them better and they need the herbs to help with their healing.
    I also thought that Miner’s article on American culture was a really accurate depiction of American culture and how American’s have become completely consumed in achieving the “ideal” image that our “normal” rituals can almost seem very unusual and somewhat drastic to others. The ritual of going to the temples describes how people in American today are willing to take drastic measures in order to feel and look younger.

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