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The Anthropology Student

Crayfish tails in tarragon butter, galantine of rabbit with foie gras, oxtail in red wine, and apple tartelettes. The patient had this rich meal and complained of "liver upset" (crise de foie). Why a liver ache? I always associate indigestion with a stomach ache. In studying French culture in my Evolutionary Psychology class, I learned that when experiencing discomfort after a rich meal, the French assume their liver is the culprit. Understanding and dealing with the minor — sometimes major — cultural differences is a necessity in our shrinking world and diverse American society. Anthropology has prepared me to effectively communicate with an ethnically diverse population. My science classes, research, and clinical experience have prepared me to meet the demands of medical school.

I first became aware of the valuable service that physicians provide when I observed my father, a surgeon, working in his office. I gained practical experience assisting him and his staff perform various procedures in his out-patient center. This exposure increased my admiration for the restorative, technological, and artistic aspects of surgery. I also saw that the application of medical knowledge was most effective when combined with compassion and empathy from the health care provider.

While admiring my father's role as a head and neck surgeon helping people after severe accidents, I also found a way to help those suffering from debilitating ailments. Working as a certified physical trainer, I became aware of the powerful recuperative effects of exercise. I was able to apply this knowledge in the case of Sharon, a forty-three-year-old client suffering from lupus. She reported a 200% increase in her strength tests after I trained her. This meant she could once again perform simple tasks like carrying groceries into her house. Unfortunately, this glimpse of improvement was followed by a further deterioration in her condition. On one occasion, she broke down and cried about her declining health and growing fears. It was then that I learned no physical prowess or application of kinesiology would alleviate her pain. I helped reduce her anxiety with a comforting embrace. Compassion and understanding were the only remedies available, temporary though they were.

To confirm that medicine is the best way for me to help others, I assisted a research team in the Emergency Room at University Medical Center (UMC). This experience brought me in direct contact with clinical care and provided me with the opportunity to witness and participate in the "behind-the-scenes" hospital operations. Specifically, we analyzed the therapeutic effects of two new drugs — Drug A and Drug B — in patients suffering from acute ischemic stroke. The purpose of this trial was to determine the efficacy and safety of these agents in improving functional outcome in patients who had sustained an acute cerebral infarction. My duties centered around the role of patient-physician liaison, determining patients' eligibility, monitoring their conditions, and conducting patient histories.

I continued to advance my research experience at the VA Non-Human Primate Center. During the past year, I have been conducting independent research in endocrinology and biological aspects of anthropology. For this project, I am examining the correlation between captive vervet monkeys' adrenal and androgen levels with age, gender, and various behavioral measures across different stress-level environments. I enjoy the discipline and responsibility which research requires, and I hope to incorporate it into my career.

Anthropology is the study of humans; medicine is the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease in humans. From my work at UMC and my observation of my father’s practice, I know medicine will allow me to pursue an art and science that is tremendously gratifying and contributes to the welfare of those around me. My anthropology classes have taught me to appreciate cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology. First hand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition has taught me the invaluable role of prevention. Medical school will now provide me with the technical knowledge to alleviate a crise de foie.

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