I think the most surprising thing about Carrie’s lecture was her feeling about it as a whole. She seemed to regret certain aspects of her research while in South Africa. She claimed that the way she handled herself while in Durban, South Africa led to her having less of an impact. She spent too much time interested in the bus system and other less important aspects of Durban, and didn’t notice that the building across the street from the school was extremely dangerous for kids. This lead to Carrie’s suggestions on limiting violence not being feasible for this specific town. This surprised me because I feel like I would have made the same mistake. When I travel, I tend to fall into more of a tourist than an actual observer of the culture. This has huge ramifications when one is actually doing research to help a community. It is so easy to get caught up in the less important aspects when one is in a place that is so different than what they are used to. To make a legitimate difference using research in a new culture, one has to put away their tourist side and get to the bottom of what they are trying to fix.
Another thing I think is very important when it comes to doing research abroad, is to know why you are doing it. Carrie talked about people that go to another country to set up a project that doesn’t help the community after they leave. These people will go to the country, take a picture with the native people there, post it on Instagram, then leave the country without making an impact. This is utterly unacceptable. Carrie went to Lima, Peru to help eradicate the spread of HIV. She went to Durban, South Africa to make the lives of children there safer. She knows exactly what she is doing every time she left the country, which is why she has such a successful impact. Find what you want to change in the world, then go out and do it. If you’re doing it to take pictures and put it on a resume, there is a chance you can do more harm than good.
The hardest part of doing research abroad seems to be figuring out the culture of wherever you are going to be. What would you all do to get a better understanding of the culture of where you are going? Who would you talk to? What research would you do prior to your arrival?
The recent events surrounding the controversial racist posters raise a multitude of questions and concerns. Some people, a majority even, may instantly join the side of the argument that does not condone these posters whatsoever without thinking twice. I personally agree that these posters are utterly wrong and the morality behind the messages doesn’t exist. But, we live in a nation and a community that promotes many freedoms that prove to be controversial every day: freedom to carry guns, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. The basis behind these freedoms is legislative, and our democracy chose to create these freedoms to protect the opinions of anybody and everybody. But at what point do higher powers have to step in and say certain actions are simply too much. For the same reason you can’t scream “FIRE!” in a movie theater or “BOMB!” in an airport, and given it was known who put up the posters in the first place, should the culprits be in legal trouble? And, should actions like this that would be considered free speech be illegal even though they don’t put any person in immediate danger such as the “FIRE!” example?
You don’t have to agree with something for it to be legal, which is exactly why we have a government and a legal system in the first place. But, this is a case that fits so well into the grey area of free speech that it can’t help but be discussed. On the other side of the issue, one could consider the people who took down the posters infringing on free speech of those who put them up. Again, controversy is natural, and without disagreement, nothing would ever change. The morals challenged in this case are extremely severe and completely generalized to a racial group, but it serves as an example for other cases that may not be so extreme. So, my fellow HSSPers, where is the line drawn for free speech (in this case or in any), and how do you think the University of Michigan deals with the freedoms we have on campus?
The concerning events that took place over the past few weeks have brought the issue of racism to the forefront of our thoughts. At almost the exact time, my Anthropology class learned about race. In reality, race is completely false. It is solely a social construct fabricated by colonialism. Humans share around 99% of their DNA with chimps proving how little biological differences exist. In addition, the idea of racial groups based on skin color is foolish as skin tone is based on latitudinal position with people closer to the equator having darker skin to protect from UV radiation. While race might be false, racism is very real. Racism creates a hierarchy of races seeing certain groups as lesser. In the past, this has led to discrimination and slavery. However, even today, at a campus like the University of Michigan where students are seen as smart and well-educated, race continues to a controversial issue. Events like what took place in Angell hall remind us of the great distance we still have to travel to defeat racial discrimination.
Global health is another topic we have discussed in my Anthropology class. When, the videos we watched told us how many women in Sub-Saharan Africa sought traditional healers rather than doctors I was not surprised at all. In Anthro we have read of numerous peoples around the world who believe in some sort of nontraditional healing. The Yanomami of Brazil see shamans that use hekura spirits to cure illness. The Azande of South Sudan practice witchcraft and sorcery. While these methods might seem foolish to a group of future medical professionals it is important to view these practices in context. While these healers might not actually provide medical treatment, they absolutely restore emotional confidence to their patients and many times that can help the process of recovery. In addition, many of these peoples have other reasons for death outside of illness. When any person dies in the Azande, it is never due to chance. Witchcraft is the root of all misfortune. Witchcraft is a social function that promotes order and respect as it is only committed by the people you have angered. My Anthropology class has opened my eyes to seeing topics such as race as medicine in new ways.
After viewing the documentary, my eyes were opened to the situations and challenges faced by the patients and healthcare professionals in Ghana. I would argue that culture and healthcare are inseparable, and often time faith / traditional healers do play an important role in a community. Therefore, it is not surprising that many Ghanaian women would prefer to seek help from traditional healers instead of the unfamiliar modern-medical doctors. What saddens me is that so many of these women don’t receive timely, proper treatments, or are exploited by uncaring healthcare providers and self-proclaimed healers. Additionally, the problems and the intransparency of the Peace and Love hospital have raised doubts from multiple patients, and this only increases the fear and distrusts that many Ghanaian people have toward the Western medicine. So I believe that there are many challenges to be overcome in the healthcare industry of Ghana, and some of the strategies should include raising awareness among the Ghanaian communities, having more proper and specialized trainings for healthcare professionals, and reallocating more resources to breast cancer treatments and researches.
Furthermore, the video also illustrated the importance of cultural competency when working in the health care field. When working with people of different backgrounds and treating patients from different communities, it is important to be mindful of the cultural differences and be respectful. Often time we are so used to the “American” way to do things that we become unaware of other cultures and even become ignorant. I also believe that, instead of thinking: “I’m here to change and save these people”, a healthcare provider should be thinking: “I’m here to collaborate with them, to work toward providing better care”, because global health is not about one single savior-doctor, it is about collaboration and serving the people.
My questions for you are:
What are some of the ways that, as a student, you can contribute to the improvement of global health?
If you were a doctor in Ghana, what would you do to encourage more breast cancer patients to seek modern medical services?
Diversity is something that I believe the university is lacking. It is common to see a lack of diversity in classes, yet because many people come from a single-race town so it doesn’t seem so bad. The posters came as a shock to me personally because I had never faced such blatant propaganda. One illustrated an opinion on how refugees suckle at the tit of America and deplete its resources. I almost laughed at the absurdity, but even as I tore it down the hateful message clung to me. How could someone spread such a cruel message? How could people harbor such anger toward an entire group of people without justification?
The university tells us that although they do not support the content of the messages, they support freedom of speech. So I can’t help but wonder, where do my freedoms begin? Am I free in a place where someone else tells me I am genetically inferior? Is it appropriate for me to read that my white mother made a catastrophic mistake by dating my black father? These messages tear apart the identity of our students, but we are expected to uphold and respect the right to be hated.
Students of color can find some solace in student organizations or friend groups. Knowing that you aren’t alone can bring comfort, even while your identity and worth is being attacked. These resources are important when issues like these arise because having community can influence how someone experiences these events. Yet the posters still come up in conversation. I am forced to remember the anger I felt, the shame, the sadness. This is the problem with hate speech. No matter what it says, or how incorrect it may be it is damaging. For this, I want to say I’m sorry to every student negatively impacted by these people’s decision to abuse their rights. I think the only way to create a better environment is to actively teach that just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean you should. It is important to not group entire communities together, this is how bias happens. When you stop seeing people as they are due to preconceived beliefs, you miss out on important aspects of their character. As future healthcare professionals, we have to be able to take any bias out of our mind to properly treat patients. Viewing each person as an individual who deserves respect creates a more inclusive and accepting environment for everyone.
My questions for you all are: Do you think that freedom of speech should encompass hate speech? What restrictions should be in place to prevent messages like these from infiltrating a supposedly safe learning environment?
I always knew that health care in some countries was far from the advanced health care we have here in the United States. However, it surprised me that so many women in Ghana were suffering from breast cancer and were not receiving proper care. Culture plays such a large role in how women receive their care, and that is something that must be considered. In Ghana faith healers are more popular than actual physicians. This is due to a fear of western medicine. I began to wonder why they were afraid. Is it due to the way that American’s impose themselves on other countries? Or reasons related to the wants and features of their culture? When we spoke about things we need to consider when walking into other communities, it really opened my eyes. So often we think were doing the right thing and what others want, but that may not always be the case. It is great that the United States wants to be helpful, but we need to be mindful of other cultures and customs before we get there. It seems that when this is accomplished, we can be the most impactful.
I also found it extremely upsetting that workers in the Peace and Love Hospital were lying to patients about having cancer and giving them unnecessary medication. Even in the United States we have seen cases were doctors have lied to patients about having cancer, and giving them chemotherapy drugs that caused more harm than good. I think this correlation is an important one to make because it shows that health care is not perfect anywhere, and is not always used for the peoples best interest.
My question to others is:
Do you believe that it is the United States responsibility to go into others health care systems and try to implement change? Or should the United States prevent from imposing and allow these cultures to carry on their health care systems in a way that they are comfortable?
Shocked. Motivated to change. Compassionate. Eager. These words describe my reaction to the videos we viewed this afternoon regarding the plight of patients in underprivileged areas like Ghana. Nevertheless, many of the problems exemplified by the Peace and Love Hospital in Ghana mirror some experiences that even American patients face; I think such detrimental experiences come as a result of ignorance and indifference by some healthcare professionals toward patients. These situations have prompted me to personally enter the medical field. Rather than just prescribe medications or order surgeries, I desire to directly impact and improve the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of patients by utilizing knowledge that I have received, experiences that I have treasured, and analytical skills that I have developed. It’s pretty amazing to think that even though I won’t be doing chemistry during a surgery or calculus when I’m helping a patient, this base of knowledge and learning to critically develop a necessary skill set will help me influence others. What an amazing thought it is for healthcare professionals to get up each morning and dedicate the next 24 hours to improving the wellbeing of others!
On a varying note, I think that it is detrimental for the U.S. healthcare industry or professionals to forcefully impose their will on other communities and societies. Such imposition bring remnants of colonization into my mind; colonization should not be the face of global health. Rather, when healthcare providers collaboratively work with local doctors through a comprehensive, mutually-respected relationship, optimal care can be provided for patients in need. In such situations, a thorough understanding of the local customs and culture is key, once again, to best serving the needs of individuals. When unruly healthcare professionals step in without consideration for the societal situation (macroscopic) or an individual situation (microscopic), it would have been more beneficial if they had remained estranged from their lofty ambition. What the world needs is more caring, eager, motivated, and empathetic health professionals who are willing to cooperate, willing to learn, and willing to be both right and wrong in various situations. Only through this mindset can our global healthcare system continue to progress for all people.
I would like to discuss the events that have happened recently on campus over global health this week for the blog post, because honestly, they have been on my mind a lot more than global health has. Racism is still a huge issue in society, even now reaching 60 years past the civil rights movement. I’m not sure whether or not the fliers and posters were hung by students of the University, and that troubles me. Every educated mind that was accepted here should have at least a basic understanding of equality between every race and gender, and if it is not known by students that equality is a right for all, it definitely should be. There should be more classes educating students about the benefits of diversity, as knowing about equality is just as important as knowing about math or science. It should also be noted that not everyone comes from places that are as diverse as Ann Arbor, and they may not be aware of different cultures. Although they may not be as culturally aware as others, we should neither be mad at them nor let them stay in this ignorant state: we should continue educating them. It is not always the fault of the person themselves that they behave in a certain way; they may not understand or be educated by the benefits of a diverse world. The sad truth is that racism, among many other traits, may be so deeply ingrained in people without them noticing, and that’s where the problem lies. I believe to truly end racism, we need to end this tug-of-war state between races and begin cooperating and educating people, to show them that just because their parents felt a certain way does not make it right, and that equality is a basic right for humans. The yelling and the fighting have got us virtually nowhere. I am very saddened and frustrated by the hate that is happening in general after the incidents. This “back-and-forth” rhetoric between people of all backgrounds continues to widen the schism, and when true compassion and love come out, I plan to see true equality for all.
My question for other bloggers: do you believe that there should be more educating and less fighting in incidents such as this? If not, why? I would love to hear from you!
Thank you everyone for listening as well, it was nice to type this one(: Have a good one!-Anthony Edgar