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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

2010 September 17

This summer, I read an interesting book about cross-cultural issues in health care.  The book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, revolves around the story of a Hmong girl in Merced and the problems that the family face when trying to navigate through the world of Western medicine and hospitals. It brings to light how extremely important cultural competency is to improving the way our health care system functions.

Interesting tidbit from the book about the way medicine is taught in America:

The desensitization starts on the first day of medical school, when each student is given a scalpel with which to penetrate his or her cadaver: ‘the ideal patient,’ as it is nicknamed since it can’t be killed, never complains, and never sues.  The first cut is always difficult.  Three months later, the students are chucking pieces of excised human fat into a garbage can as nonchalantly as if they were steak trimmings.  The emotional skin-thickening is necessary–or so goes the conventional wisdom–becuase without it, doctors would be overwhelmed by their chronic exposure to suffering and despair.  Dissociation is part of the job…

It’s a fascinating read, and I definitely recommend it.

One Response
  1. Kao Thao permalink
    September 17, 2010

    good passage selection Stanley. appreciated the post.

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