SFU Canada Research Chairs Seminar Series: "The New Complex Patient? Diseases, Systems, and Interventions"

Thursday, October 14, 2010
11:30 - 12:20

Dr. Cynthia K. Patton
Canada Research Chair in Community, Culture and Health, Department of Sociology and Anthropology


At first glance, the terms ``co-morbid patient," ``dual/multi-diagnosed/co-occurring diagnosis patient," and ``complex patient" seem to apply to the same people-those with more than one specific, single diagnosis. However, a search in medical, allied health, mental health, and social science journals reveals that each term is employed by a specific subset of health disciplines (medicine, epidemiology, mental health, nursing, health services) in research and clinical practice, and that all three terms are used in ways that differ ontologically, epistemologically, and/or methodologically. There is no clear, unified object of study or object of intervention in these terms. Thus, while there is robust and voluminous research in each of the relevant health disciplines about the problem of increasing complexity in medicine, there remains a major conceptual gap because the research is carried out under different epistemological frameworks and for different purposes. This seminar will present some ethnographic findings from completed research in clinic settings, and place these in the context of historical changes in scientific understanding of disease, health actuarial systems, and clinical practice that have resulted in the parallel invocation of `complexity', but possibly incommensurable uses of the concept in research and clinical practice.

About the Speaker

Professor Cindy Patton (Harvard Divinity School, MTS 1977; University of Massachusetts, PhD 1992) holds the Canada Research Chair in Community, Culture and Health in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She has a long participated in community health and community development initiatives as an activist and scholar. Her Health Methods Research and Training Facility (SFU-Harbour Centre) provides pro bono research assistance to community groups, focusing particularly on housing, community arts, and social welfare. She has published extensively on social aspects of the HIV epidemic, beginning with her 1985 Sex and Germs: The Politics of AIDS and most recently, a editor of Rebirth of the Clinic, a book devoted to questions of the historical and contemporary place of clinics and clinical practices.