Seventh National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Main Conference Oral Presentations (concurrent workshops and peer-to-peers) Teaching cultural diversity: current status in U.K., U.S., and Canadian medical schools meeting the common challenges

C-2 Cultural competence training: What should it be and how it should be taught?

Teaching cultural diversity: current status in U.K., U.S., and Canadian medical schools meeting the common challenges
Wednesday, October 20, 2010: 10:15 AM-12:15 PM, RHP, Baltimore Salon B

In this presentation, we present the current state of cultural diversity education for undergraduate medical students in three English-speaking countries: the U.K., United States (U.S.) and Canada. We review key documents that have shaped cultural diversity education in each country and compare and contrast current issues. The major issues that all three countries face include a lack of conceptual clarity, and fragmented and variable programs to teach cultural diversity. Faculty and staff support, and development and ambivalence from both staff and students continue to be a challenge. We suggest that greater international collaboration may help provide some solutions.

Conceptual clarity: In all three countries, medical schools can determine their own pedagogical methods, formats and structure for cultural diversity education. Very rarely is the philosophy explicit. This means that it is difficult to compare curricula and to effectively measure change or progress. We suggest how this might be overcome. We believe that all three countries would benefit from effective leadership and clarity as to how terms of cultural diversity are defined and used in medical school curricula. We will discuss with the audience as to how this might be achieved.

Curricula issues: In all three countries there has been a tendency to focus on teaching about different or “other” cultures and less focus on becoming aware of one’s own biases and prejudices which might influence adversely on care provided. The dominant discourse is still about students gaining “expertise” about other cultures and wanting certainty where it may not exist. We present some curricular guidelines and information on relevant appropriate resources.

Faculty and Staff Development: Generally staff in this area feel unsupported. We suggest that some of these issues may be addressed by developing a corporate environment which would integrate cultural diversity with strategic plans across the entire academic programmes, research, practice and policies in the presence of available budgetary resources.

Student issues: There continues to be ambivalence about the necessity of cultural competence training with students citing that they belong to multicultural communities or come from a minority background. We suggest how we might achieve consistency between what students are taught in the classroom and what they witness in practice.

We use our joint experience to try and draw out solutions for how the challenges which are similar across the three counteries might be met. The workshop draws on the presenter experience and also that of the audience.

The workshop will have relevance for postgraduate educators in diversity as there is evidence that the struggles in undergraduate and postgraduate education are similar.

  • Cultural Diversity Education US UK Canada.pdf (997.0 kB)
  • Presentation Information:

    Program: Main Conference Oral Presentations (concurrent workshops and peer-to-peers)
    Primary Category: Cultural Competence Training
    Subtopics: Assessing learning/performance on cultural competence/disparity reduction, Health professions school programs, Curricula development

    Region Addressed by Presentation: International
    Organization: Health Professions School

    Nisha Dogra, BM, DCH, FRCPych, PhD , Health Sciences, University of Leicester and Leicesrershire Partnership NHS TRust, United Kingdom
      Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
      University of Leicester and Leicesrershire Partnership NHS TRust
      Health Sciences
      Westcotes House
      Westcotes Drive, Leicester
      United Kingdom LE3 0QU

      Phone: +44 116 2252885
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Nisha has been involved in diversity teaching to medical students since 1997 and developed an innovative and very successful programme. She completed her PHD in this area during which time she developed different models for a more patient centred approach to diversity education. She has developed programmes for health care professionals and is exploring how these can be modified for other staff groups such as University employees. Nisha spent a year at Massachusetts General Hospital as a Commonwealth Fund Harness Fellow in Health Care Policy when she explored the facilitators and barriers to implementing cultural competence training in different health care organisations. Nisha has published widely in teaching diversity. More recently she has turned her attention to how this work can be used to improve service delivery for patients in a culturally diverse community. She is her service lead for the strategy for minority groups.

    Olivia Carter-Pokras, MHS, PhD , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland College Park School of Public Health, College Park, MD
      Associate Professor
      University of Maryland College Park School of Public Health
      Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
      2234G School of Public Health Building
      College Park MD, USA 20742

      Phone: 301-405-8037
      Fax: 301-314-9366
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Dr. Carter-Pokras is the Principal Investigator for a NHLBI cultural competency and health disparities academic award at the University of Maryland. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Maryland, Dr. Carter-Pokras served as the Director of the Division of Policy and Data at the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She earned a PhD in Epidemiology and a MHS in Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Carter-Pokras is an elected fellow and member of the Board of Directors for the American College of Epidemiology, and elected member of the Executive Board of the American Public Health Association.

    Sylvia Reitmanova , Medicine, Memorial University Newfoundland, St Johns, NF, Canada
      Memorial University Newfoundland
      St Johns NF, Canada