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Kent Maynard (Editor), Berghahn Books, New York, 2007, 172 pages, $25.00, ISBN 1-84-545100-7


Medical Identities: Health, Well-Being, and Personhood (Volume 2 in the Social Identities Series) is an intriguing book for neuroscience nurses who also have wider interests in anthropology, pharmacy, social policy, caregiving, history, or international perspectives in health care. It is a very engaging, well-written, and concise volume of essays.


This series of seven essays was developed from a seminar on medical identity that took place at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology held at the University of Oxford in 2003. Maynard's introduction provides basic definitions of the concept of medical identity and a concise summary of each essay is included. In the first essay, "Shaping New Identities: General Practitioners in Britain and South Africa," the author (Anne Digby) describes the identities of general practitioners in rural Britain in comparison with their counterparts in urban Britain and South Africa. The next three essays are: "Pharmacists and Other Drug-Providers in Cambodia: Identities and Experiences," coauthored by Ing-Britt Trankell and Jan Ovesen; "The Vicissitudes of Medical Identity in Cameroon: Kedjom 'Traditional Doctors' and an Ambivalent Clientele," by Kent Maynard; and "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Among Zulu Diviners," by Gina Buijs. These first four essays in the book explore the medical identities of a wide variety of healers and promoters of health, including acupuncturists, physicians, diviners, and medicine sellers.


Another essay is "Learning to Be an Acupuncturist, and Not Becoming One," written by Elisabth Hsu. This essay discusses the experience of training to become an acupuncturist in China, as well as an anecdote on not choosing that career path.


One of the most interesting essays is "Necessary In-Betweens: Auxiliary Workers in a Nursing Home Hierarchy" by Janette Davies, who explains how by conferring dignity on their patients, auxiliary workers confer dignity on themselves. The final essay, "Midwives' Identity in a British Hospital: The Cost of a Normal Birth," by Jenny Littlewood, describes the self and personhood of midwives within the context of their lower status and prestige in relation to gynecologists. The volume concludes with notes on contributors and an index.


Notes and references accompany the introduction and most of the essays, so the reader can look up sources or read further on certain subjects. Two essays are accompanied by illustrations that can help readers with a Western view of medicine to visualize such places as a pharmacy in a developing country (the second essay) or a British hospital layout (the final essay).


The only disappointing feature of this book is the cover. In my opinion, the cover photograph is an unfortunate choice of the stereotypical Western doctor -a Caucasian male wearing scrubs and surgical attire. I hope readers will get past this visual and open the book as they will find a wide variety of nonstereotypical medical identities portrayed across several cultural and international perspectives in a variety of healthcare settings.