Chapters 3 and 4

In Chapter 3, we learn about the name of the novel, and how it refers to how the Hmong community conceptualizes epilepsy.  Lia, NaoKao and Foua’s daughter, has this disease. In Hmong culture, those with epilepsy are seen to be divine healers, and this is an occupation those with this condition do not refuse. Seeing as the family was lving in Merced County, and didn’t understand English, gettig their daughter the help she needed was difficult.  The hospital didn’t have full time translators, therefore this lack of communication led to multiple misdiagnoses. Additonally, even though doctors knew of their culture, none of them asked the Lees what they actually thought was the cause of Lia’s epilepsy. Thankfully, after having being misdiagnosed, Dr. Dan Murphy got it right.


In Chapter 4, we learned more about the distinct cultural divide and misunderstanding between the Hmong and American medicine.  Folks asked if American doctors ate the organs of the Hmong and even that the Hmong are cut up and sold as food. Some differences in the style of the Hmong culture’s medicine was that a txiv neeb or a healer, would go to the house of the sick, spend eight hours with them, give an immediate diagnosis, and never ask them to undress.  Additionally, these healers knew that healing the soul and healing the body were intertwined. The most fascinating portion of this chapter was when Dwight Conquergood developed an environmental health program for Ban Vinai. Instead of going with a patriarchal lens that Western medicine had all the answers, he tried to become apart of the culture and appreicate al of its complexities.  He even completed his health intiives by using their culture so that the community would understand and trust the initive.


These chapters relate directly to what were talking about with the health disparities in the Smedley article.  At the end of it, it talked about how African Americans received the short end of the health care stick and had higher rates of certain dieases like AIDs and Diabetes.  These disparities occur because of culturally incompetent institutions and systemic inequality in the health care system. Additonally, since I am a tennis fan, I thought of Serena Williams, and how she had to basically beg her doctors to believe her when she said something was wrong because of how prevalent implicit bias is in diagnosing patients.  Because of this, I think all doctors should have to go through cultural bias training and each health facility should have translators of all of the languages in a community.


From my viewpoint, I think that the world could use a bit more of Conquergood’s approach- a culutural diffusion of medical insights and information, rather than believing that one side has all of the answers.  Having read this, I have two main questions, do all doctors have to go through cultural training at different points in their career? What’s the rate of hospitals that are understaffed when it comes to having translators?  Cultural competency and accessibility seems to be the main things necessary for this cultural divide to start to close.

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One thought on “Chapters 3 and 4

  1. Dominique, I thought your comment about Serena Williams was a great point. While we have read about these disparities in both articles and the novel, it is important to see them present in our everyday culture. I had never thought of the Serena example before but now that you mention it, it makes me think of other examples in our current society. I am so glad you brought this up in your post!

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