PERREAULT Magazine OCT | NOV 2015 - Page 85

Western-trained Chilean doctors, however, expect their patients to describe their symptoms; they complain that their Mapuche patients are taciturn and uncooperative, Guzmn said.

Some indigenous communities, like the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, Mexico, have been able to fuse their beliefs in traditional health practices with the practice of modern Western medicine. “They can have a dual diagnosis of “susto” or “chibih” (soul loss) and … a brain tumor,” Taub explained.

Jarrahy’s goal these days when he operates in these poor communities is to train and work with local health professionals to treat indigenous people. Back in L.A., the surgeon uses email, Skype and social media to stay in touch with patients and these local healthcare providers.

“Working with local physicians to build clinical programs that are locally managed and incorporating education and training is the future of the project,” he said.

Taub, who is also a volunteer with Mayan Families, and Jarrahy have launched a study in Guatemala that looks at how surgical interventions intersect with people’s beliefs. They recently received a Transdisciplinary Seed Grant from the UCLA Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the Academic Senate Council on Research and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute to fund their research.

“What we hope to do is to develop some kind of patient questionnaire that physicians or medical relief organizations can use when they go overseas to find out about the cultural beliefs and practices of the people they are treating,” Jarrahy said.

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