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Sunday's letters: Culture matters in medicine

Creating the good doctor | May 22 column

Culture matters in medicine

I was delighted to read University of South Florida College of Medicine dean Stephen Klasko's piece about the next generation of "good doctors." I was especially struck by the focus on training doctors to learn from group analysis of a medical problem and from exposure to the medical humanities and other disciplines. As a cultural anthropologist who is involved with training working physicians who seek to develop a new specialty in geriatric medicine, I would like to suggest one additional key piece in medical student education: Train students to understand cultural differences. That can enhance health outcomes, particularly if doctors understand how ethnic cultural context can help in diagnosis and treatment.

I saw this very clearly when I came to the Tampa Bay area in the 1990s and carried out a National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored initiative that examined how families interpret symptoms of dementia and how USF's Memory Disorder Clinic assessed such medical issues. I saw that the most frequent mistakes in diagnosis were made by a well-trained neurologist who sought to make an independent diagnosis before the staffs in psychology, social work and internal medicine could contribute. This effect was amplified when patients were from different ethnic backgrounds different than the physicians.

In my current role as a consultant with a geriatric health training program at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., I see these effects playing out in almost every case I help physicians work through. These physicians come from across the United States and from many other nations, suggesting that there is a widespread, critical gap in medical school training.

Jay Sokolovsky, professor and chairman, anthropology, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

Secrets, lies and AIDS trading | May 22

HIV not death sentence

The article by the St. Petersburg Times' Meg Laughlin on HIV/AIDS is necessary for everyone to read. There are people out in the world who feel vindicated by the spreading of a disease. These people are to be pitied and helped, not condemned. I have been HIV positive since 1983, and I am still here to write this letter with the help of a "cocktail" of drugs, wonderful nurses and doctors and great people in my life.

The HIV community has come so far since the discovery and naming of this deadly disease. Many in the HIV community work tirelessly for the education and betterment of those infected or affected, but it's not nearly enough. The "services" mentioned in the article are virtually nonexistent. Talk to many HIV positive people, and the "services" they receive are barely there.

If you or someone you know is aware of an individual spreading this deadly disease, please talk to that individual or refer him to someone who can help. As HIV is spread, knowingly or unknowingly, that individual is committing murder.

Mark L. Grantham, Gulfport

A dangerous obsession | May 22

From two Pakistans to one

Susan Taylor Martin's article presents a good, clear narration concerning the origins and history of the Pakistan-Indian conflict. As a 71-year old retired world history and East Asian history teacher, I clearly remember one aspect of the event that warrants mention.

At the time of the 1947 separation of the Muslims/Pakistan and Hindus/India, the largest population of Muslims was found to the east of India, not to the west where present-day Pakistan is located. In the settlement worked out, Pakistan would include "West Pakistan" and an "East Pakistan," which were separated from each other by 1,000 miles of Indian territory. So at the beginning, India found itself bordered on two sides by Muslim — thus perpetuating the religious tension that initiated the separation in the first place.

For many reasons this was an untenable situation, so, primarily because the East Pakistanis felt the West Pakistanis treated them as second-class citizens of this new country, in 1971 following a brief conflict, East Pakistan received its independence and formed the nation of "Bangla" (the dominate dialect among these Muslims) "desh" (land).

The Indian government of that time was very supportive of this occurrence, which greatly diminished their border insecurities. Bangladesh, today, is a thriving, democratic nation, which borders South and Southeast Asian countries.

Wallace F. Witham, Belleair Bluffs

Camera as cop goes to court | May 22

Keep red-light cameras

As the woman behind the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, I know all too well the devastating effects of red-light running. Seven years ago my husband was killed by a red-light runner. While this tragic crash propelled me into advocacy, the ultimate goal has always been to ensure that no one else experiences the same preventable loss as I did.

I find it very appalling that these attorneys are pursuing the dismissal of intersection safety camera violations by misrepresenting aspects of the law. With Florida being the third most deadly state in the U.S. for red-light-running crashes, our focus should be on combating the act of red-light running and not misrepresenting the law for personal or financial gain.

Intersection safety cameras make Florida roads safer and ultimately reduce the number of red-light running related fatalities and collisions.

This lifesaving technology is already working in more than 40 Florida cities and counties to decrease intersection related accidents.

Melissa Wandall, Bradenton,

STOP! Red Light Running Coalition of Florida board president

The Koch brothers' war | May 22 column

Blumner always predictable

You always know where Robyn Blumner stands. You are either a liberal Democrat or you are one of "America's angry, gullible, know-nothings." She can't write a column without some vitriolic blathering about the tea party, the Republican Party or George W. Bush. Let's just say that Blumner is of the far-left ideology and gets a paycheck from the St. Petersburg Times for sharing her biased viewpoint!

But if the Koch bothers want to sponsor a university professor who offers a conservative view, Blumner flies into a self-righteous rage and calls it a "war." Interestingly, she refers to the American Association of University Professors. This is the same group that blasted USF for firing Sami "death to Israel" Al-Arian. And like Blumner, you always know where they stand.

Dan Holmer, Brandon

Sunday's letters: Culture matters in medicine 05/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 5:35pm]
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