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Interpretations of reality : cross-cultural encounters of Asian students with healthcare at Oregon State University

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  • Enrollments of international students have increased dramatically in the last several decades. The delivery of health care to these students has become a topic of study for college health care providers and medical researchers across the country. The purpose of this study was to explore how Asian international students cope with illness while in school at Oregon State University. Interviews were held with international students from Japan, Korea, China and selected health care providers from the Oregon State University health center. Information was sought describing health care issues, and perspectives on medical care. The interplay between the student's perspectives and experiences and those of health care providers was explored as they revealed the role of culture in the cross-cultural medical situation. In contrast to other findings I maintain that it is the effects of culture, that is, the envisioning of different realities, in similar situations, that affect both patients and practitioners in the cross-cultural medical encounter. American core cultural values, in conjunction with a biomedical paradigm, formulate a base from which university health care providers interpret their clinical reality. Asian international students bring with them to the medical encounter a different paradigm that, for them, provides a definitive view of illness and health care. It also is grounded in meanings learned from cultural experiences. The anthropological views presented here are powerful and of considerable value in clinical settings because they assist individuals in moving beyond culture-bound realities in order develop a pluralistic perspective that validates the existence of different illness realities in the cross-cultural medical encounter.
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