It is the job of public healthcare workers to address the health needs of the community in its entirety. With a clear divide between indigenous and modern culture, it is only natural that the healthcare system would reflect such a blend and such a distinction. During our cultural study project, I have addressed this larger topic by breaking it into smaller focus questions: What is the role of traditional medicinal use? What is the role of “modern medicine”? How can, and how have, these two types of medicinal practice blend and meet? What role has the government taken in addressing this divide? What has been the role of the individual?
After several interviews I have come to the conclusion that the two are in the process of blending, in the process of syncretism, and the change was inevitable. There are merits to each and with the amount of influence of the modern age on traditional practice, medicine was fated to adapt, whether residents are willing to recognize the change or not. The government laws and programs in place to integrate various medicinal practices together and thus form a system that addresses the needs of the community as a whole. For example, in the backyard of the headquarters of all centros de salud in Cuenca, there is a garden of medicinal herbs so that those who prefer traditional medicine can receive a prescription for a certain quantity of herbs in exactly the same way one would receive a prescription in a pharmacy.
It was my interview with Dr. Franklin that resonated with me the most. During our conversation when asked in which style of medicine a patient should be treated, he replied, “Whatever works”. He went on to explain that whatever makes the patient feel better is what should be done. Solely educated in modern medicine, who is he to determine what works the best? It was this humbled perspective that seemed to capture the entirety of the Cuencan medical system. From the religious spirituality and the nuns who run their clinics on catholic roots, to small traditional clinics en el campo run by a shaman, to community health clinics running on modern medicine and government funds. All come together to create community health.