The world is just not homogeneous. Anthropology is relevant in a bunch of different ways to medicine. I feel like anthropology has given me really
great tools. And if you want to treat the medical problem, you also want to
understand something about the person. It’s been true for a long time that
medical school admissions committees have recognized
anthropology as a useful training. When the effort to solve
a health problem doesn’t work, right, when people don’t
follow the medical regiment of care, when they don’t
show up for appointments, when they don’t take their medicine; the
question the medicine often asks is, “why don’t they?” Sometimes anthropology can help answer
that question. One of the groups I got to know, that I spent a lot of time in,
and I learned a lot from was an association of people living
with HIV. I remember this one day people talked
about the treat that made them hungry. That was different. People didn’t talk
about hunger in the US on antiretrovirals. This one woman, I
remember, really well she would say- she said, “All I eat is ARVs. I get these free. I get this free medication, but that’s all I eat.” And I sort of, just kind of
blew it off at first. Uh, sure. It’s a poor area.
People are hungry, but then as I would wright back to my advisers, you
know, in the US, they would be like, “Hunger? With aids treatment? That’s weird.”
This is where an anthropological, I think, perspective
helped me. What they really wanted was material
assistance. And it just felt
like this big blind spot. I think now there’s much more awareness. Problems of health are also problems
of meaning. Paying attention to how people make sense of suffering is a big theme in medical anthropology.
Giving words to those, um, phenomenon that we experience and things that we’re interested in is I think one are the first steps
about being able to name something, talk about it, and then maybe change it. I got involved through Art with Heart through taking one of their training sessions where they used this book, “Oodles of Doodles” to train volunteers who would go in and do
art with children at a hospital setting. I really love this one. So imagination station- “You just received a magic power, mind reading.
What’s your doctor thinking right now? How about your mom and dad? And what are the kids at school thinking?” So this is where kids get to actually start
to share things that they might be keeping
quiet or they might not, they might be afraid to say it because
they don’t wanna start making their parents feel bad. They might have an idea that the
doctors not telling them something. And when people hear “art,” they may get
intimidated or they may think it always looks like a drawing. But the real power of it is to be able
to name something that you didn’t have words for before. One reason to study anthropology is that
it’s fascinating. It’s eye-opening. What could be more
interesting than people? A lot of what anthropology yields is surprising insights- things you never
imagined. You ask questions about people and they
will surprise you.