Exploring cultural definitions of childhood physical abuse

Having the opportunity to return to Changsha, China during my PGY 2 year was not just a rich cultural experience but has broadened my views on the impact of culture in understanding behaviors. Culture affects our understanding of clinical approaches, priorities, and research. My experience in the Yale Global Mental Health Program has motivated me to continue to collaborate and work in global mental health.

During my 3-month research rotation, I had the opportunity to continue and expand upon some of the research I had done as medical student in Changsha, China. I had previously spent a year at Xiangya Medical School teaching medical English and developing a project to understand cultural differences in the acceptability of childhood discipline techniques. During my PGY 2 year, I was able to return to Changsha to explore cultural definitions of childhood physical abuse. As part of the project, I had the opportunity to interview faculty, staff and students at Xiangya, as well as collect surveys from undergraduate and graduate students. During my time in China, I was able to visit several inpatient psychiatric units and discuss with other clinicians differences in approach and resource allocation in mental health.

This experience and the continued collaboration have been invaluable in my academic development. I have learned incredible lessons on the process of getting approval for research both in and outside of the US. I have experienced the importance of collaboration in not only understanding the nature of child abuse but in how to approach research and other possible interventions in a culturally specific way. This experience has opened my eyes to the role of my cultural background in framing my clinical and academic work. This knowledge has opened the door to understanding and appreciating different approaches and viewpoints to complicated issues. This experience has also helped me to see the difficulties of promoting child safety and mental health with limited resources in a complex political, social and economic system with a diverse and rich culture and history.

Dr. Brady Heward, Yale Psychiatry Resident