A Healer’s Meridian: Where Eastern and Western Healing Intersect

Young Explorer Sadia Ali. (Photo by Andrew Sampson)

Sadia Ali is a National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee who seeks to unravel the conflict between “Western” and “Eastern” medicine, and to illustrate how their intersection can be beneficial to everyone in providing more treatment options and lowering costs. Her project, “A Healer’s Meridian”, focuses on reporting healthcare conditions and practices in Laos, where medicine is both new and traditional.

“A Healer’s Meridian” is a project that takes root from my personal experiences with Western healthcare. Growing up with parents who suffer from cardiovascular disease and no form of healthcare insurance, I understood at an early age the deficiencies of our Western healthcare model. With numerous surgeries and medications, these expenses have been an ongoing burden for my family. If we, as Americans, have had limited financial accessibility to healthcare, then how do remote communities in developing countries also receive similar services?

This project calls into question our Western perceptions of health and treatment and explores alternative forms of healing in remote communities in Laos. I hope to unveil the mystery shrouding Eastern medicine and show the audience that traditional medicine can present an equal footing to Western treatment, and that the merging of the two is a tangible and sustainable form of healthcare that could potentially be adopted by other developing nations.

This series comprises a compilation of interviews, footage of my experiences, my debriefings as the outsider, and diary entries. With a camera in hand, I will photograph and film different characters I meet along the way to give a multifaceted view of health and healing in Laos. Through my exploration of the dying culture of Hmong folk medicine juxtaposed with the Western influences of modern healthcare in Laos, “A Healer’s Meridian” delves into how this dichotomy can work hand-in-hand and sometimes at odds.

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Human Journey


Meet the Author
A Healer's Meridian is a digital diary that explores the dichotomy between the conservation of traditional Eastern practices and the integration of modern medicine to provide a holistic sustainable healthcare model in Laos. The intent of this series is to expose an alternative form of healthcare that takes use of its limited resources to treat patients. Centered around a community-oriented approach, this series will follow my journey as I build relationships with integral members of the healer community and uncover their practices, conservation efforts, behaviors, and attitudes of disease and integrated treatment. The findings will be a compilation of interviews, a first-person view of practices, personal debriefings, and diary entries. This digital diary will have entries in real-time, utilizing the unique power of social media to transport audiences directly into my experiences. Outlets include a public blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The approach is critical to appeal to a younger demographic and make findings readily accessible to the audience. With the use of audience feedback on relevant questions I pose, the series becomes interactive and opens room for discussion as the findings are revealed along my journey. Through my personal lens, the audience gets involved with a relevant discussion of healthcare, which coincides with the changing landscape of healthcare in our society.