Medical cultures

Authored by: Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good , Seth Hannah

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter argues that medical cultures are socially constructed worlds of illness and healing that vary across local and national contexts. Medical practice is a product of the interchange of ideas spread through cultural traffic between local clinics and the cosmopolitan systems of medical education and research. One of the ways this takes place is through the biotechnical embrace; cultural ideas about science and technology animate medical practice and spur innovation. There is also a unique culture of medicine created through the socialization of medical students and the management of medical practice within and across institutions. The culture of patients also influences the practice of medicine. The very ideas of what constitutes illness and disease are culturally constructed, and these ideas can be at odds with those held by medical professionals. This cultural discordance can lead to health disparities, and as a result there has been renewed attention to culture in order to ensure high quality medical care for all. For example, cultural competence training seeks to education clinicians about the cultures of patient groups along ethnic and racial lines. However, increasing hyperdiversity of patients and clinicians makes it difficult to associate cultural traits with entire ethnic or racial groups.

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