Skip to Main Content

Drawing on native culture in medical practice

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2002 - Autumn


For Melvina McCabe, M.D., the diversity of cultures found in the United States is a double-edged sword, a source of both richness and ugliness. “The richness of our culture is a gift that many do not appreciate. The ugliness is racism, intolerance and the belief that our culture, and therefore who we are, is better than any other,” said McCabe, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. At a Humanities in Medicine lecture in April McCabe described her own journey through three cultures; the Navajo way of her family, the Christian teachings of the boarding school where she received her early education and the ethos of the medical world.

From her Navajo origins she has maintained the belief that wellness comes from a harmony with one’s self and all living things. “In no other place but health care is a flexible, open-minded approach so paramount,” she said. “It is here that we are trained to heal people, but truly heal them and take into account not only the physical aspects of a person, but also their desires, their culture and their ideas of health, wellness and illness.”

Previous Article
“If not you, who? If not now, when?”
Next Article
“If you’re not going to ban them … ”