Academic Statement of Purpose
I majored in Anthropology and Human Biology during my undergraduates. Based on my biology and chemistry background, I spent most of the time studying global public health. Among various topics, I am interested in the aging issue in Asian societies and its following political policies and welfare, and medicinal responses. Taking professor Lampl’s class, I learned that various diseases coming with aging require a special care system from society. As the duration of care is also getting longer, the proper distribution of social resources and division of roles became important. Specifically, I thought it was urgent to study the culture of end-of-life in Korean society, which is aging at the fastest rate in the world.
The hospice ward in Korea has a high barrier to entry as it is only available to patients with a limited terminal disease who are judged to have less than two months left to live. However, through my master’s research, I found that medical staff and patients’ prejudices toward hospice care make the situation worse. Prejudices such as hospice care and its space are often considered a place where patients who have given up treatment go to or where they shortly stop by before they die. Such prejudices, which stem from Koreans’ perception of death, are significant factors that hinder the influx of patients into hospice wards. Prolonging treatment for end-of-life patients may deprive patients and families of time to acknowledge their finite life and organize the rest of their lives. To improve this, communication about death, including death-related information transfer between medical staff, between medical staff and patients, and between medical staff and family caregivers, are necessary. Here, I thought that the concept of “health communication” in public health needs to be actively utilized and applied to institutions surrounding terminal patients, medical staff, and family caregivers.
We often seek health only when we are in good health, and we often overlook terminal patients’ heath as they already lost their health. However, physical and mental health and therapy are also crucial for terminal patients, directly related to their good death. In Being Mortal, a Medical Anthropologist, Atul Gawande wrote, “Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end.” In order to live a good life till the end, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of the health of terminally ill patients. My goal is to establish a health communication program focusing on the end-of-life phase in the hospital setting by creating an environment where doctors can discuss the upcoming death with patients and families and freely seek advice from medical staff in different fields.
To accomplish my goal, it is necessary to analyze the hospital’s governance to see whether Korea’s hospital system and health care policies support terminal phase patients to face a good death. Next, a detailed interpretation using ethnography research is needed to figure out how medical staff diagnose, discuss, and prepare for death with patients and caregivers and how a medical institution as a central place for death creates an atmosphere for a series of incidents. In addition, practical knowledge to analyze cancer itself is also necessary to deeply understand the experience of terminal phase cancer patients. Understanding the patient’s condition is vital to interpret the care patterns of the hospice team and family caregivers. At Brown school, several professors are dealing with 1) the aging problem of Asian society, 2) health communication from versatile perspectives, and 3) cancer from a preventive and clinical perspective. I applied to this program because I thought that these professors’ research experience would greatly impact me and my further research.
My field research and work experiences in the ICU and hospice palliative care ward show my passion for addressing the problems Korean society faces. I am a dedicated researcher capable of designing and effectively conducting self-directed research to address various problems and achieve my goals. I also have a good understanding of my field of interest, and I recognize the importance of field research. Based on these experiences and the public health knowledge I learn from this program, I want to improve the end-of-life culture in a hospital setting, which enables good life to the end, and become a scholar encompassing both the sense of practical skill and theoretical knowledge. In this way, I want to objectively analyze the Korean culture of death in the hospital setting and suggest a practical and approachable direction for improvement.
Academic Statement of Purpose