Medicine Across Cultures

Medicine Across Cultures – Medical Education Monday

Today I am honored to have Mat (@lonemat on Twitter) from London guest blogging about his recent medical elective in India, where he spent time interacting with medical professionals from various countries. Not only am I ecstatic to have Mat blogging today because he’s one of my favorite tweeters, but I’m also honored to have him here as he was also involved in the conversation that initially sparked my interest in creating the Medical Education Monday series!

If you have any questions, an idea for the Med Ed Monday series, or attend(ed) medical school in a country not yet discussed (here’s a list) please email me!

Medicine Across Cultures
Photo Courtesy of Idea Go.

Medicine is one of the oldest professions and the Hippocratic Oath, still taken by many physicians, stakes our claim in Ancient Greece. The wording of the Hippocratic Oath would make hypocrites out of many modern doctors, which is probably as good an introduction to a piece on Medicine across cultures as you can get.

I recently spent a “Medical Elective” in India….and before you suspect me of doing a piece on how developed world medicine varies with developing world medicine, let me tell you – I did this elective at varying points with two American doctors, an American medical scientist, a fellow Brit and a Canadian nursing student as well as seeing many Indian students. The gaps between what is know as the “Western” world and India are intriguing and a matter for a far greater person than me to discuss. The complexities are great and I would feel completely inadequate to give them justice, especially after only 6 weeks.

The difference between our student cohorts was enormous and is well worth discussing. The difference between the developing world and western, or “developed,” world is discussed ad nauseum, where as our differences in the western world are often ignored.

Politically we were divergent, but themes emerged:
Americans wanted a more public system – they craved the lack of insurance in England and our freedom to treat everyone we saw evenly. They shared our view of modernization, and were shocked at some financial decisions made in the UK. For example, in the UK most births are midwife led and this shocked a future Obstetrician from the US. American students also couldn’t understand the use of the Copper IUDs versus the Mirena coil where the copper coil is cheaper. Although, I must admit the copper coil is increasingly rare in UK. The US trainees were amazed that if were to have a road traffic accident as a tourist in England, they would recieve the same treatment free of charge as I would. They were also surprised to find that I’d need no insurance at all for my treatment.

Us English students were amazed at the choices available to the American patients and by the prices paid for treatments. Insurance is really a bizarre thing for any Brit, including our doctors!

We, however, proved our similarity over and over again. We agreed on surgical checklists – the WHO checklist being standard! We mostly agreed about antibiotic therapies and were in uniform agreement on hygiene, the importance of the multidisciplinary team, and the role of evidence based medicine.

We were also in agreeance regarding our love of discussing medicine with colleagues from across the world. We were completely different, but ultimately united by our common qualification, our common hopes and dreams, and our common oath, even if it is no longer as formal as the hippocratic oath, to help our patients and do no harm.