For any country that has a large and diverse migrant population, it is a struggle to connect these people to the country's institutions, including the healthcare system, which can be overwhelming in its complexity. Cultural and language barriers often make it difficult for doctors to fully understand the symptoms of their migrant patients, reach accurate diagnoses, or properly treat their suffering. Thus, medical practitioners must attempt new, innovative practices in order to reach patients where they are and convince them to accept treatment from doctors they don't totally understand. In France, Serge Bouznah and Catherine Lewertowski have pioneered one such practice—that of transcultural mediation.
Drawn from two decades of their experience with transcultural mediation, Spirits in the Consulting Room tells the stories of eight patients—mainly migrants—and their families. Each chapter focuses on a different patient: Christelle, Djibril, Moncef, Alhassane, Jacinthe, Amy, Cyril, Alice, and Pierre leap off the page as distinct people with unique situations. Together, these chapters reveal how patients' comprehension of their symptoms is shaped by their cultural background, while recounting the challenges of translating that into terms the doctors can grasp.
The book shows how trained transcultural mediators can help to redress the power imbalance between doctors and the migrants they treat, providing patients with advocates who respect the authority of their background and experiences and don't just take the side of the medical professionals. The groundbreaking insights modeled in this book can be applied to any medical situation where doctors and patients find themselves speaking different languages.
About the Authors:
Serge Bouznah is a public health physician specializing in transcultural clinical practice. In 1988 he founded one of the first services of transcultural mediation in France. Catherine Lewertowski is a physician who specializes in transcultural approaches. She currently oversees the primary health centers for mothers and children in the department of Seine Saint-Denis.