In yesterday’s faculty meeting, members of the Department of Medicine discussed a proposal for improving hospital care. In just the few days I have been a part of the department, the attention the faculty pay to patient outcomes is apparent.
My training is as a social scientist, not a health provider, but illness is often a cultural construct as well as a physical one. Journalist Anne Fadiman describes a dramatic example of this in her book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
In the tale of a Hmong family interacting with the western medical system, she suggests that much confusion and pain could have been avoided if doctors had taken the Hmong belief system into account. Medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman suggests a simple way for physicians to see illness through the patients’ eyes.