This week, I am writing this letter to share with you an incredible resource for the holiday break. As our semester ends, I hope you are happy with the progress you've made. If for whatever reason, you find that you failed a course, please do not interpret the poor grade as an indicator of your intelligence, contribution to this world, or potential in your future profession.
Failures are often learning opportunities that can offer insight into the necessary behavioral changes aligned with progress and success.
Now before, I can give you this week’s treasure, let me tell you how it found me during a trip to California.
In the week before beginning my position in Antigua, I went to LA to visit my parents. After two years in Mexico, I missed my mom’s cooking and spending time with family. While in LA, I also decided that I needed to get to northern Cali to train Capoeira at the United Capoeira Association (UCA) headquarters.
While in town for two days, I had the honor to stay at the home of Mestre Acordeon and Mestra Suelly. They are living legends in the Capoeira community and two of the UCA founders. One evening after class, I began to explain to Mestra Suelly about my new position.
When I told her it involved teaching at a medical school, she asked me, have you ever read the book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down?” I said no.
The next morning, Mestra Suelly brought me the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. Mestra Suelly said it was a great book relative to the field of medicine, and worth my time to read. I took the book and had all intentions on starting it immediately.
On the plane ride back to Los Angeles, I read the first few pages and put it down. Fast forward three months later, I carved out time to resume reading where I left off. The author, Anne Fadiman, shares the story of a Hmong family recently immigrated to the United States and their life-altering clashes with the American medical system.
In the book, the “common sense,” of medical education and practice is challenged. The Hmong family featured in the book believe that the relationships between the body, spirit, and mind offer the best insights to understanding disease and therapies. These beliefs guide their faith in shamans and traditional medicine practices, instead of the US healthcare system to treat their four-year-old daughter diagnosed with epilepsy.
The book forces the reader to confront their cultural biases. It made me strongly reconsider some of my beliefs about western medicine. Reading the book with an open mind has the potential to disrupt your thinking and actions aligned with the status quo. As we approach the holiday break, I want to recommend that you make time to read the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. It's a treasure filled with jewels to help you in your future career.
Many medical students will enter the health profession with unaddressed biases toward western practices and world views. After spending two and a half years in medical education classrooms, proceeding to clinical practice, earning a medical degree, and then completing a residency, it makes sense to believe the dominant perspectives of health and medicine.
It will be your job to support hospitals, doctors, prescription drugs, and scientific research as the best approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
I want to push you to also develop more cultural awareness of people from outside your community.
Take the time today and order this book. There are audio and digital formats available so you can take it on your plane ride home. Don't do what I did the first time and only read a few pages before putting it away. Finish it over the break and let me know what you think next semester!
Peace and Blessings,