Medical anthropology: Social inequality, cultural, environmental, political, and economic issues focalized through health and health behavior.
I hope to approach a career in medicine within the context of society, wherein which each citizen plays and occupies a unique space, but is seen as part of a larger whole. As the British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett so effectively demonstrate in their book The Spirit Level, an inclusive society built and supported from the bottom up is beneficial for all. They clearly illustrate the importance of addressing fundamental issues in equality rather than creating short term ‘band aid’ solutions.
Four months of traveling in India, during which time I spent one month in a hospital in the southern state of Tamil Nadu participating in a medical volunteer placement, allowed me to observe cultural, geographic, religious and socioeconomic differences and how these were reflected in their health care delivery. By studying the juxtaposition of Western and Eastern medicine, both in their practices and their philosophies, I was especially fascinated by the interplay of the analytic, scientific based approach dominant in Canada, with India’s intrinsic cultural and traditional reverence. This opportunity allowed me to explore in greater relief the social and cultural determinants of health. I centered my ideas on a general thesis concerning traditional food, the role of women in society, and how this is affected by globalization.
The spirit of exploration and discovery explains perhaps the appeal, and our subsequent enamourment for exotic destinations. Such, perhaps, is the story of foreign aid and investment. It is challenging for local problems to compete against this draw, and as a result they often go unnoticed, trodden off as too mundane or uninteresting to devote the same human and economic capital towards. So while I am keen to continue my preliminary studies regarding the impact of structural inequity and social determinants of health in a global context, I am, with greater awareness, more fully subscribing to their development on a local level.
These inequities are amalgams of numerous and interrelated components, none of which can be addressed in isolation. Focusing on marginalized communities within our own society, addressing fundamental social determinants of health, would lead to a more inclusive and long term approach to health care in our province.
The contrasts between traditional belief and modern practice, along with the associated consequences can (and should) be investigated in many domains of our regional environment. Aboriginal populations directly subjected to rapid paced environmental degradation, represent one such domain, and account for significant and growing area of personal interest. As such, my interests and goals largely centered on targeting global health issues, are narrowing and becoming more focused. A more nuanced realization is taking shape; being an engaged individual and citizen, means acting first at the regional level.
By researching the problems facing our health care system, from a more anthropological or environmental angle, I feel that we could instigate change in the direction of a more cohesive system. It is my belief that the healing or fixing of sickness is less rooted in the individual and more in the larger society in which they are a part.