In the 2020 Summer Olympics, we will undoubtedly see large, red circles down the arms and backs of many Olympians. These spots are a side-effect of cupping, a treatment originating from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to reduce pain. TCM is a globally used Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), but it still battles its critics who think it is only a belief system, rather than a legitimate medical practice. Even so, the usage of TCM continues to grow. This led the National Institute of Health (NIH) to sponsor a meeting in 1997 to determine the efficacy of acupuncture, paving the way in CAM research. Today, there are now over 50 schools dedicated to teaching Chinese acupuncture in the US under the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.
While TCM has seen immense growth and integration around the globe throughout the last twenty years, other forms of CAM continue to struggle for acceptance in the U.S. In this article we will focus on Native American/Indigenous traditional medical practices. Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients should not have to choose between traditional and allopathic medicine, but rather have them working harmoniously from prevention to diagnosis to treatment plan.
It was not until August of 1978 that federally recognized tribal members were officially able to openly practice their Indigenous traditional medicine (the knowledge and practices of Indigenous people that prevent or eliminate physical, mental and social diseases) when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) was passed. Prior to 1978, the federal government’s Department of Interior could convict a medicine man to a minimum of 10 days in prison if he encouraged others to follow traditional practices.
It is difficult to comprehend that tribes throughout the U.S. were only given the ability to openly exercise their medicinal practices 41 years ago when the “healing traditions of indigenous Native Americans have been practiced on this continent for 12,000 years ago and possibly for more than 40,000 years.”
Since the passage of AIRFA, many tribally run clinics and hospitals are finding ways to incorporate Indigenous traditional healing into their treatment plans, when requested by patients.
As I was getting ready for bed last night a friend shared a tweet that immediately caught my attention.
The tweet was of a
paper that has just been published online, titled “Does physician gender
have a significant impact on first-pass success rate of emergency endotracheal
intubation?” and showed the abstract which began,
It is unknown whether female physicians can perform equivalently to male physicians with respect to emergency procedures.
Understandably, this got the backs up of a
lot of people, myself included. Who on earth thinks that’s a valid question to
be researching in this day and age? Are we really still having to battle
assumptions of female inferiority when it comes to things like this? Who on
earth gave this ethics approval, let alone got it though peer review?
I then took a deep breath and asked myself
why a respected journal, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine,
would publish such idiocy. Maybe there was something else going on. The best
way to find out is to read the paper so I got a copy and started reading. The
first thing that struck me was the author affiliations – both are associated
with hospitals in Seoul, South Korea. The second author had an online profile,
he is a Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine. I couldn’t find the first
author anywhere which made me think they are probably quite early in their
career. The subject matter wasn’t something I could imagine a male early career
researcher being interested in so figured they are probably female (not knowing
Korean names I couldn’t work out if the name was feminine or masculine).
It is February of 2005, and my grandpa is lying in an Intensive Care Unit bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, critically ill from a renal artery rupture that planted him face-first in his parlor. As a functioning alcoholic who has already been in the hospital for a day, he is beginning to shake periodically, a sign of his withdrawals.
Still, it will take another twelve hours and exasperations from both my mother and grandmother (both nurses themselves) before the physicians get him the Ativan he needs to combat this symptom, which is small potatoes compared to his emergent reason for admission.
While he would eventually make a full recovery, in those few hours my grandpa had tremors he was also the unintended victim of “tunnel vision” exhibited by many physicians: they see the most prominent problem and address it, often losing grasp of a holistic view of the patient and neglecting his humanity in their attempt to treat him. In short, they see the medical problem as opposed to the entire person.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that doctors are heartless: the number one reason doctors choose the profession is to help people, and the grueling work it takes to become an MD is clear evidence of their devotion to their career. So how did we end up here, with doctors overlooking the humanistic nature of their work?