The Times has a good story on the use of traditional healing in Western hospitals. I wrote a similar piece for The Boston Phoenix a few years back.
At Mercy Medical Center in Merced, where roughly four patients a day are Hmong from northern Laos, healing includes more than IV drips, syringes and blood glucose monitors. Because many Hmong rely on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses, the hospital’s new Hmong shaman policy, the country’s first, formally recognizes the cultural role of traditional healers like Mr. Lee, inviting them to perform nine approved ceremonies in the hospital, including “soul calling” and chanting in a voice not to exceed three decibels.
I highly recommend the book mentioned in this story — The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. It’s a great example of well-written, book-length, narrative journalism.
I had an editor tell me always be careful when you say — the first, biggest, tallest etc….
(S)ome American doctors are beginning to appreciate the value of alternative medicine and the healing power of prayer, and recognize that many Cambodian healing traditions can be traced to Buddhist practices and ancient Chinese medicine. Medical workers who serve these Khmer communities no longer try to force Western methods on immigrants. Instead, they are trying to understand Cambodian healing traditions, and to find ways to mesh them with modern medicine. The newly opened East-meets-West Metta Health Center in Lowell, for example, offers not only acupuncture but also cupping, a form of acupressure extremely popular in Cambodia in which heated glass bottles are applied to various regions of the body. And the clinic staff includes doctors, nurses, social workers, and a Cambodian expert in traditional healing.
Since I wrote this piece, more westerners have discovered cupping, a practice mentioned in my story. Now I’m sorry I didn’t try it when I lived in Cambodia in 1996. I spent the first two month there trying to figure out why some people walked around with red circles on their foreheads.