Culture and Medicine: Reflections on Identity and Community in an Age of Pluralism

Culture and Medicine: Reflections on Identity and Community in an Age of Pluralism

By Sylvestre Quevedo, MD, MPH

Winter 2008 - Volume 12 Number 1

Labels of Identity-- Race, Ethnicity and Culture

One of the great challenges in modern medicine is creating effective therapeutic relationships in an era of ever-increasing cultural diversity. Our hospitals and communities have become global villages where, daily, many languages, cultures, and customs intersect, clash, merge, and evolve. Yet in spite of this spiraling complexity, health caregivers, physicians, and patients visit and revisit this therapeutic encounter ever hopeful that it will provide solutions and solace. Beliefs, communication, and trust are the currency for a successful interchange. They are not the “stuff” of normal scientific discourse but they are every bit as real. How can we negotiate this uncertain terrain of relationship more effectively? Are there principles to guide us and stories to illustrate the pitfalls? Is there a “primer” for this?

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