Why We Teach Culture in Medical Education,” Wear states, “Very few academic medical educators would deny the need for students to understand and respect differences among people based on gender, race, ethnicity, social class, physical or intellectual abilities, sexual identity or religious beliefs. Yet racial disparities in health have been documented throughout history …Wear, 2003, p. 550). Cultural competency requires that health practitioners not only recognize and treat patients’ illnesses, but that they understand the illnesses within the context of each patient’s social and cultural backgrounds.
4. Recommendation. That high-profile organizations such as the IOM, Department of Health and Human Services, CHEA, ASPA, LCME, and ACGME, along with key foundations and health professions’ organizations, convene for the purpose of (1) agreeing upon a core set of competencies that includes diversity and cultural competency, and (2) developing a clear and uniform definition of the core competencies.
5. Recommendation. That accrediting organizations translate the core competencies into standards. Individual accrediting bodies (nursing, medicine, etc.) would need to work out the details of standards that focus on best practices for their disciplines.
Although many institutions currently grapple with finding methods of teaching and assessing cultural competency in students, few have considered doing the same for their faculty. Obviously having a culturally competent faculty and admitting students with the potential for fully developing cultural competency skills would greatly aid schools/programs in their effort to graduate caring, compassionate students with respect for people of all types.
6. Recommendation. Accrediting organizations should require universities and their health-care programs to revise their mission statements to include more specific references to racial and ethnic diversity, cultural competency, and culturally appropriate care for diverse populations. Such standards could further suggest including faculty developmental processes to enhance the teaching of cultural competency.
Student treatment has become an important and well-understood part of the educational environment in all health professions schools. Many institutions/programs have standards relating to student treatment, with outcome measures provided through student questionnaires. One of these, the 2002 AAMC Graduation Questionnaire, asked students in the 126 U.S. medical schools to rate two important issues: (1) cultural differences and health-related behaviors/customs (71.5 percent indicated their education in this area was “appropriate,” while 23.5 percent rated it “inadequate”); and