Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learn About Good Medicine From A Nepali Doctor

Kamana Khadka

There was a time in my life when my interpretation of “good medicine” was quite narrow.  So narrow that I defined good medicine by – English speaking Doctors, highly efficient nurses, huge and widespread hospital buildings, high-tech lab equipment, sophisticated imaging machines, and best procedures money could buy.  And then I grew up.  The picture I painted of good medicine was far from complete.

Health is more about our cultural, social, and environmental settings/beliefs and less about cutting-edge medical care. 

Yesterday when Dr. Shakti Basnet, Nephrologist at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, shared photos of him paying reverence to dialysis machines used at Bir Hospital on the occasion of Dashain, biggest festival in Nepal; perfect blend between medicine and culture suddenly came to life.

“I am a Doctor and a Hindu.  I do not find any conflict between those two worldviews.  In fact when my patients see me paying reverence to the machines that are used in treating their illness, we connect at a whole different level.  My patients feel a sense of relief knowing that even the Doctor doesn’t look at the machine as just a machine but a medium that will take away their pain.  They feel better already,” says Dr. Shakti Basnet. 

A rare find in United States.

I have been a consumer of healthcare in United States.  Fortunately, I am pretty healthy.  Hence my personal experience with healthcare in United States is limited to annual check-ups.  But I have accompanied close friends to their “somewhat complicated” health visits.  I have spent nights beside their hospital beds as they were recovering from surgery or other health complications.  I have interacted with medical professionals on my friend’s behalf.  I am quite familiar with the taste of healthcare delivery in United States.

Let me tell you, it tastes bitter.  It even has a bitter after taste.  Strictly business.

“What is the value of my life at the hospitals in United States?” is the question I often ask myself.

Just another “infected body” that brings business.

People’s individuality, culture, language, traditions…Umm, out the healthcare window. 

Efforts are being made.  Yes, true.  But ask anyone who has been working for a sustained period of time to promote culturally responsive health care in United States and they can tell you that despite decades of efforts, very few solid action items are in place at our hospitals; our hospitals in United States, accessed by world’s most diverse patient population.  Have you paid attention to our country’s changing demographics?  Ok, then you know these efforts are just Not Enough.

So far, Doctors from developed countries such as United States have been coaching Doctors from under-developed countries such as Nepal on Do’s and Don’ts of good medicine.  I think it is time we turn the tables.  There is a lot Doctors from developed countries need to learn from Doctors from under-developed/developing countries. 

High-tech tests and cutting-edge research does not guarantee good health.  In fact it takes away “human voice” during health care delivery.  

Let us learn about good medicine from Nepali Doctors. 

Wish you all a very Happy Dashain.  May this Dashain bring victory over the demons of sickness similar to Goddess Durga’s victory over Dushashan, the demon of all demons.

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