• A Foucauldian Archaeology of Modern Medical Discourse

      Scheurich, James J.; Brokaw, James J.; O'Loughlin, Valerie D.; Byram, Jessica N. (2020-09)
      Medical education researchers have long been interested in understanding medical professional identity formation and its implications for the healthcare system. Various theories have been proposed to explain identity formation. Among them, Foucault’s discourse theory maintains that it is the discourse of medicine that constitutes medical professional identities. This study deployed a Foucauldian archaeological methodology to analyze the structure of modern medical discourse and establish links between discourse and professional identity formation in medical students. A total of forty-six medical students at Indiana University School of Medicine participated in either individual or focus group interviews. Direct observation of the clinical and educational settings was also performed, which resulted in additional textual data in the form of fieldnotes. Archaeological analysis of discourse was undertaken in three levels of the statements, the discursive elements, and the discursive rules and relations. Results entailed a detailed depiction of the structure of medical discourse including discursive objects and modes of enunciation, discursive concepts, and theoretical strategies related to each object. Discursive objects are things that are talked about in modern medical discourse. This study identified four discursive objects as disease and treatment, the doctor, the human body, and the sick person. Modes of enunciation are the different ways in which people talk about objects of medicine, whereas concepts consist of the notions people draw from when talking about objects of medicine. Theoretical strategies indicate certain positions that people take in relation to the objects of medicine. Rules of formation and conditions of existence for each discursive element were also established. Since Identities are entrenched through language and interaction, developing a systematic understanding of the structure of medical discourse will shed new light on medical professional identity formation. Results of this study also have profound implications for teaching professionalism and medical humanities in medical curricula. Furthermore, as a research methodology used for the first time in medical education, archaeology not only opens new territories to be explored by future research, it also provides an entirely new way to look at them.