A conversation that took in clinic while examining a Bedouin child with headaches and birthmarks.
The neurologist (me): Are there any other family members with similar birthmarks?
The father: Is it important?
The neurologist (me): It is very important for neurological diseases because are skin and brain stem from the same origin during pregnancy.
The father: I also have an “apple” birthmark because my mom was not given an apple when she was pregnant with me. My other son has also strawberry stains because my wife wanted strawberries during the summer. This child has stains due to berries craving .
The neurologist (me): You’re not serious.
The father: You’re not serious… This is common knowledge … don’t they teach this in medical school?!
Getting out of your comfort – going to a different location.
Sometimes a comfort zone is a matter of place physical place that is connected to the local culture. Sometimes even within the same country there a different culture. The doctors sitting in their clinics are used to see patients from local communities are familiar with the language and the cultural context. Sub-specialties have wider encounters with more distant areas and cultures. As a sub-specialist I thought I have already seen variety of cultures; however encounters like these still surprised me. Each time I start it clinic in a new area I’m surprised from the different cultural language. This is even more pronounced when you provide services to different countries and remote areas in the world.
Telemedicine – to discover similarities and differences.
How can you provide medical services to a foreign country? Seems like that the biology is the same and most of the diseases are the same (but differ in frequency). On the other hand you have different accessibility to medication and medical care. But we also have to note that the cultural context of diseases varies as well. So can we use our local medical skills for treating patients from a distance when the distance is both physical and cultural?! The answer has to be yes especially when both doctors and patients choose tele-medicine and understand its advantages and disadvantages. To these clinical visits the doctors bring their knowledge (that is what the visit is all about) but also a lot of modesty, curiosity and awareness to cultural differences. To read more about world medicine in general and to Arab populations in particular in the next blogs