Dr. Michael Stanley-Baker, a noted scholar of medical humanities in China from Nanyang Technology University, paid an exclusive visit to PSU Abington on Nov. 1 and hosted a speech called “Chinese Medical Humanities in a Global Perspective.”
According to Stanley-Baker, medical humanity is a multidisciplinary topic which includes a combination of 11 areas: medical history; literature, film studies; classics; art history; ethno-pharmacology, ethno-botany; area studies, language studies; psychology, cultural psychology; religious studies; philosophy of science; philosophy, ethics, law; medical anthropology, socio-linguistics, public health.
To make the broad and abstract concept of medical humanity more comprehensive to the audience, Stanley-Baker showed an example of how to apply medical humanity in the use of Chinese medicine in the Western world.
The example is a story from a movie called “The Gua Sha Treatment.” In the movie, Grandfather Xu comes to the United States to visit his son, Datong Xu. He gives his grandson, Dennis Xu, a treatment of Gua Sha to treat a slight fever, as he was unable to read the English label on the medicine.
However, when Datong takes Dennis to the hospital later, social workers mistake the harmless traditional Chinese medical treatment for child abuse due to the obvious red bruises left on Dennis’ back. Since the family’s explanation of Gua Sha does not make sense to social workers and the police, the child is taken away by the child protection agency.
To get back their child, this Chinese family starts its journey of finding evidence to prove that Gua Sha is a painless medical treatment. The father’s boss, John Quilin, tries Gua Sha in Chinatown and proves that the treatment leaves painful-looking marks that are not actually painful or harmful at all. Finally, the father is able to get the child home and the family is reunited.
In this example, the lack of medical humanity caused the misunderstanding of Chinese medicine and almost broke a family.
Stanley-Baker points out that with the globalization process today, the world is connected more firmly than ever and the integration of cultures is much more common; in this kind of situation, medical humanity is really important. If we fail to understand the medicine or medical treatment from other cultures, the misunderstanding may cause serious consequences including unnecessary death.
Stanley-Baker also implied that he will hold discussions with directors from PSU Abington to explore the possibility of creating a medical humanity major to help college students to have a better understanding of medical humanity.