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Cultural Competency: What we can learn from Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

What happens when cultural values and the medical establishment are in opposition? How can a clinician be truly culturally competent and also upholding the values of western medicine?

Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down addresses these questions head on while telling the story of a little girl and the conflict that occurs when her doctors’ and family’s goals for care differed based on perspective. It details the account of a true story taking place in California where Lia, the child of Hmong immigrants, is diagnosed with epilepsy.

Said to be mandatory reading at Yale’s medical school, this book can teach us a lot about our role as individuals wanting to be in the medical field and the importance of considering cultural values. As Sherwin Nuland said about this true account, there are no villains and there are no heroes.

This book outlines the complexities of medicine and should be mandatory reading for everyone who enters the field of medicine.

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