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Review |

Educating Medical Students for Work in Culturally Diverse Societies FREE

Rhian Frances Loudon, BSc, MBChB; Pauline Monica Anderson, MA; Paramjit Singh Gill, DM; Sheila Margaret Greenfield, PhD
[+] Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Primary Care and General Practice, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England.


JAMA. 1999;282(9):875-880. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.875.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Context Recent attention has focused on whether government health service institutions, particularly in the United Kingdom, reflect cultural sensitivity and competence and whether medical students receive proper guidance in this area.

Objective To systematically identify educational programs for medical students on cultural diversity, in particular, racial and ethnic diversity.

Data Sources The following databases were searched: MEDLINE (1963–August 1998); Bath International Data Service (BIDS) Institute for Scientific Information science and social science citation indexes (1981–August 1998); BIDS International Bibliography for the Social Sciences (1981–August 1998); and the Educational Resources Information Centre (1981–August 1998). In addition, the following online data sets were searched: Kings Fund; Centre for Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick; Health Education Authority; European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations, University of Utrecht; International Centre for Intercultural Studies, University of London; the Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford. Medical education and academic medicine journals (1994-1998) were searched manually and experts in medical education were contacted.

Study Selection Studies included in the analysis were articles published in English before August 1998 that described specific programs for medical students on racial and ethnic diversity. Of 1456 studies identified by the literature search, 17 met the criteria. Two of the authors performed the study selection independently.

Data Extraction The following data were extracted: publication year, program setting, student year, whether a program was required or optional, the teaching staff and involvement of minority racial and ethnic communities, program length, content and teaching methods, student assessment, and nature of program evaluation.

Data Synthesis Of the 17 selected programs, 13 were conducted in North America. Eleven programs were exclusively for students in years 1 or 2. Fewer than half (n=7) the programs were part of core teaching. Only 1 required program reported that the students were assessed on the session in cultural diversity.

Conclusions Our study suggests that there is limited information available on an increasingly important subject in medical education. Further research is needed to identify effective components of educational programs on cultural diversity and valid methods of student assessment and program evaluation.

Centuries of migration have made society in the United Kingdom multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural.1 However, it was not until 1991 that the United Kingdom decennial national census inquired about an individual's race or ethnicity.2 Minority groups were defined as black Caribbean, black African, black other, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, other Asian, or other nonwhite. Based on the census classifications, 3 million of a population of 55 million were defined as members of a minority racial or ethnic group, with wide regional variation. For example, almost 60% of those from minority groups reside within the West Midlands or greater London areas.3

Medical students studying and working at health service institutions within these areas undoubtedly meet and work with diverse groups.4

The UK National Health Service recently has been described as "a long-established, white-dominated organisation [which] is liable to have procedures, practices and a culture that tend to exclude or to disadvantage non-white people."5 This comment resulted from a police investigation into the unprovoked racist murder of a black teenager.6 This acknowledgment of institutional racism signals the need for medical education and the National Health Service to examine their policies and practices to ensure that they reflect cultural sensitivity and competence. Recommendations and materials are available both in the United States and United Kingdom for medical educators who wish to develop such programs.711 Despite these resources, little attention has been paid in UK medical curricula to how physicians will be effectively prepared to meet the needs of a diverse local population.12

To our knowledge, this article presents the first published literature review to identify and comprehensively describe the individual programs that have been conducted in undergraduate medical courses that provide teaching and learning of cultural diversity, in particular, racial and ethnic diversity. The findings of this literature review are part of the first stage in a project to implement teaching of cultural diversity in a UK undergraduate medical course.

Data Sources

A systematic search was performed using Medical Subject Headings and text words, in English, of the following 5 databases: (1) MEDLINE, (2) Bath International Data Service (BIDS) Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) science and (3) social science citation indexes, (4) BIDS International Bibliography for the Social Sciences, and (5) Educational Resources Information Centre (ERIC). Searches were conducted from 1963 to August 1998 for the MEDLINE database and from 1981 to August 1998 for BIDS and ERIC.

Search terms included medical education, education-medical, educational measurement, teaching, curriculum, higher education, medical schools, medicine, medical students, minority groups, ethnic groups, culture, sociology, ethnic minority, ethnicity, diversity, diversity (faculty), diversity (institutional), diversity (student), inequalities, racism, race relations, prejudice, and socioeconomic factors.13

In addition, a search of the following Web sites and online data sets was undertaken: Kings Fund14; Centre for Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick15; Health Education Authority16; European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands17; International Centre for Intercultural Studies, Institute of Education, University of London18; and the Refugee Studies Program, University of Oxford.19

These searches were supplemented by a citation search using the BIDS ISI science and social science databases. All references appended to each index article also were reviewed. We manually searched articles published in Medical Education and Academic Medicine (1994-1998) and conferred with key medical educators within the British system.

Selection of Studies

Included in the analyses were articles that described, in English, programs specifically for medical students related to teaching and learning about cultural diversity, in particular, racial and ethnic diversity.

All abstracts were reviewed by 2 authors (R.F.L. and P.M.A.) independently. Disputed abstracts were referred (to P.S.G.) for a decision.

Data Extraction

Information about the programs that had been conducted was extracted and tabulated, including year of publication, setting, year of students who participated, whether a program was required or optional, teaching staff, involvement of minority racial and ethnic communities, program length, content and teaching methods used, nature of any student assessment, and type of evaluation of the educational intervention. We developed a narrative classification of the published data.

We identified 1456 articles, from which 17 programs that had been presented between 1967 and 1997 met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed (Table 1).

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable. Studies Reporting Teaching Programs on Cultural Diversity for Medical Students
Setting

All programs were set in the United States, Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom, with the majority (n=13) in North America. The sessions were almost exclusively developed under the auspices of departments of family medicine, community medicine, preventive medicine, behavioral science, psychiatry, or educational development. However, members of departments of pharmacology and anthropology were involved in 2 initiatives.20,21 One program arose in response to students witnessing insensitive and inappropriate behaviors by faculty.22 Students then acted as sole facilitators for the session that was developed.

Nearly all the programs described were for medical students in years 1 or 2 of their training. Exceptions were the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pa) program23 (second- and fourth-year students); the program described by Kaufert et al21 (first- and fourth-year students); and the program at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (fourth-year students).24

Motivation for Program Development

One of the documented motivations for developing a program to enhance cultural competence was a perception of negative discrimination. The program at the University of Southern California School of Medicine (Los Angeles), was based on the results of a student-conducted survey that demonstrated that 17% of first-year medical students at this institution were from minority groups (defined as blacks, Asians, and Hispanics), in contrast to the 86% of patients at the teaching hospital. The University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) program25 was initiated after students expressed concern to faculty staff about insensitive behavior by their teachers.

Teaching Methods

Six programs involved members of minority ethnic communities who volunteered to be interview subjects or simulated patients for the students. The students conducted interviews individually or in pairs21,23,24,26,28 or questioned volunteers as part of a small group discussion (Table 1).20

In 3 programs, members of minority nonmedical community groups were key organizers of the teaching program and served as resources.26,29,30

One group convened a panel of experts, consisting of 2 Native Canadian interpreters, 2 patient advocates, and a physician, who participated in discussions of video vignettes with students.21

Two interventions reported the use of video recordings of simulated consultations that had been developed in cooperation with local communities.22,29 Chugh and coworkers31 developed simulated consultations based on information gained from semistructured interviews with 21 migrants to Alberta, Canada.

Three programs seemed to rely exclusively on physicians or faculty3234 who reported on their experience of cross-cultural medical care, with minimal evidence of patients being asked to describe their own personal experiences of health care services.

Two programs promoted the development of language skills to enable students to acquire sufficient skills to work effectively in Spanish as well as in English.28,30 One of these provided classroom teaching and experiential learning with Latino physician preceptors28; the other included conversation groups, as well as classroom teaching, visits to community projects, and a student-financed 8-day visit to Mexico.30

Three programs reported the use of questionnaires20,22,24 before and after teaching sessions. In most programs, this appeared to be part of an attempt to measure change in knowledge or attitudes. Two questionnaires were developed de novo.20,24 Other projects used questionnaires only once (eg, Nora et al,30 who used the misanthropy and ethnocentrism scale of Sullivan and Adelson35). Lacey32 used questionnaires as an integral part of the teaching session and as a basis for discussion.36

Other methods included review of case histories or transcripts in small groups,20,32,37 role play,22,25 panel33 and case presentation, research projects,23,38 and clinical clerkships.23,28,38

Program Content

Many courses addressed attitudes and health beliefs, alternative healing systems, demographics, complementary medicine, and language barriers. The student-initiated programs22,25 took a broader view of cultural diversity and included sexual orientation and alcoholism as well as ethnicity. These sessions explicitly set out to discuss racism and prejudice and encourage participants to challenge offensive behaviors. Substance abuse and specific diseases were covered in research projects,23,38 guest lectures, and workshops.29

One program33 took a theoretical approach and considered the anthropological and sociological theories of attitude development. In general, sessions had a practical focus.

One report mentioned conducting experiential seminars with faculty, using video and role play scenarios similar to those used with students.25 Opportunities for reflection by teachers on their own attitudes and beliefs were not mentioned.

Student Assessment

Ten of the 17 programs were either optional for students or there was no indication that they were a required course component. Only 1 of the 7 required programs was reported to have assessed students on their case presentations and contributions in tutorials.24 Assessments in the optional courses included student self-assessment of competence,26 tests in either written or oral proficiency in Spanish,28,30 or written reports of research projects.23 One group planned to develop 2 stations in an Objective Structured Clinical Examination.20 One station was intended to assess and reinforce the students' skills in taking a patient's health beliefs history. The other would provide an opportunity to incorporate a patient's health beliefs into a negotiated treatment plan.

Evaluation

The majority of articles described 1 or, occasionally, 2 years of experience. An exception was Rogers and Coulehan,23 who documented 16 years of an elective program run by the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with Navajo people and the Indian Health Service in Arizona and New Mexico. Because of the program's short duration, evaluation methods relied heavily on assessment of student satisfaction immediately following a session.20,22,24,26,33 The University of Pittsburgh program23 described the percentage of students who participated in the undergraduate program and then went on to work in the Indian Health Service, the health gains to the community members who participated in teaching and learning, and students' research publications.

Evaluations shed some light on the most appropriate time to teach cultural content. Kaufert et al21 reported a content analysis of the discussion that took place when their selection of vignettes was used with first- and fourth-year medical students. The first-year students lacked clinical knowledge and concentrated on the apparent sociocultural factors; fourth-year students focused on the clinical interaction they had witnessed. The wider sociopolitical and economic context and patient experiences of racism received little attention because students perceived this as being beyond their influence.

Few publications exist on a topic that is increasingly important in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.8,39 The instructional initiatives are varied and the majority are directed at medical students early in their education. Since the majority of programs reported have been set in the United States, the teaching methods may not apply elsewhere. Few specialties other than family medicine, community medicine, and psychiatry have reported sponsoring such courses for medical students. Students who participate in an identical program at different stages in their education will have different priorities and learning objectives.21

Publication bias is the most important source of bias in systematic reviews.13 Although considerable effort was made to locate relevant studies, some may have been omitted from this review, since only English-language publications were searched. We did not search for the term cultural competence or for terms specifically relating to language, translation, or interpreting services. Relevant publications after August 1998 also have not been included. We deliberately narrowed the focus of this review by setting out to identify programs that specifically addressed ethnic and racial diversity. A broader view of culture and diversity could have been adopted that incorporated, for example, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Data extraction was difficult, as the reporting of details and results was often incomplete or vague. We did not contact the authors for clarification. In addition, our medical education experts include representatives from outside the United Kingdom.

Despite these limitations, our review highlights the need for programs in multicultural education as part of the medical core curriculum, as well as training programs for medical educators. Because evaluations of the programs took place early in the students' education, it was not possible to chart improvements, or the lack thereof, in knowledge and attitudes toward cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity as students neared medical practice. Such information is important because the literature documents cases in which attitudes actually deteriorated as students progressed to the later years of their medical education.40 If students respond less appropriately to diverse populations as they advance, then vertically integrated programs of teaching and learning that extend beyond year 2 are essential. Further research is needed into valid and appropriate methods of student assessment and program evaluation.

 Roots of the Future: Ethnic Diversity in the Making of Britain . London, England: Commission for Racial Equality; 1996.
 OPCS/GRO(S) Ethnic Group and Country of Birth, Great Britain.  London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1993.
Owen D. Size, structure and growth of the ethnic minority populations. In: Coleman D, Salt J, eds. Ethnicity in the 1991 Census, 1996, Volume 1: Demographic Characteristics of the Ethnic Minority Populations. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1996:80-123.
Sinclair S. Making Doctors. Oxford, NY: Berg; 1997:196-247.
Straw J. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 February 1999. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1999:col 391.
Macpherson W. Report for the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1999.
Council on Medical Education, American Medical Association.  Enhancing the Cultural Competence of Physicians. Chicago, Ill: American Medical Association; 1998. CME report 5-a-98.
Association of American Medical Colleges.  Teaching and learning of cultural competence in medical school.  Contemp Issues Med Educ.1998;1:1-2.
American Medical Association.  Cultural Competence Compendium. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ethic/diversity/contents.htm. Accessed June 1999.
Kai J. Valuing Diversity: A Resource for Effective Health Care of Ethnically Diverse Communities. London, England: Royal College of General Practitioners; 1999.
Robins S. Multicultural Health CareLondon, England: British Medical Association Scientific Affairs Dept; 1995.
Poulton J, Rylance GW, Johnson MRD. Medical teaching of the cultural aspects of ethnic minorities: does it exist?  Med Educ.1986;20:492-497.
Mulrow CD, Oxman AD. Cochrane Collaboration Handbook [updated September 1997]. In: The Cochrane Library [database on disk and CD-ROM]. Oxford, England: Update Software; 1997. Issue 4.
 The King's Fund, London [Web site]. Available at: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/. Accessed May 1998.
 Centre for Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick [Web site]. Available at: http://www.warwick, ac.uk/fac/soc/CRER-RC/. Accessed May 1998.
 Health Education Authority [Web site]. Available at: http://www.hea.org.uk/. Accessed May 1998.
 European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations, the Netherlands [Web site]. Available at: http://www.ercomer.org/. Accessed May 1998.
 International Centre for Intercultural Studies, University of London [Web site]. Available at: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/ccs/icis/. Accessed May 1998.
 Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford [Web site]. Available at: http://www.qeh.ox.ac.uk/rsp/. Accessed May 1998.
Rubenstein HL, Bonnie JD, O'Connor B.  et al.  Introducing students to the role of folk and popular health belief systems in patient care.  Acad Med.1992;67:566-568.
Kaufert JM, Koolage WW, Kaufert PL, O'Neil JD. The use of "trouble case" examples in teaching the impact of sociocultural and political factors in clinical communication.  Med Anthropol.1984;8:36-45.
Mao C, Bullock CS, Harway EC, Khalsa SK. A workshop on ethnic and cultural awareness for second year students.  J Med Educ.1988;63:624-628.
Rogers KD, Coulehan JL. A community medicine clerkship on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  J Med Educ.1984;59:937-943.
Copeman RC. Medical students, Aborigines and migrants: evaluation of a teaching program.  Med J Aust.1989;150: 84-87.
Johnston MAC. A model program to address insensitive behaviours toward medical students.  Acad Med.1992;67:236-237.
Farnill D, Todisco J, Hayes SC, Bartlett D. Videotaped interviewing of non-English speakers: training for medical students with volunteer clients.  Med Educ.1997;31:87-93.
Gill PS, Adshead D. Teaching cultural aspects of health.  Med Teacher.1996;18:61-64.
Gonzalez-Lee T, Simon H. Teaching Spanish and cross cultural sensitivity to medical students.  West J Med.1987;146:502-504.
Shah CP, Svoboda T, Goel S. The visiting lectureship on Aboriginal health.  Can J Public Health.1996;87:272-274.
Nora LM, Daugherty SR, Mattis-Peterson A.  et al.  Improving cross-cultural skills of medical students through medical school–community partnerships.  West J Med.1994;161:144-147.
Chugh U, Dillmann E, Kurtz SM, Lockyer J, Parboosingh J. Multicultural issues in medical curriculum.  Med Teacher.1993;15:83-91.
Lacey EP. Enhancing interpersonal skills for ethnic diversity in medical practice.  Int Migration Rev.1988;22:301-311.
Wells KB, Benson MC, Hoff P. Teaching cultural aspects of medicine.  J Med Educ.1985;60:493-495.
Nurge E. Anthropological perspective for medical students.  Hum Org.1975;34:345-352.
Sullivan P, Adelson J. Ethnocentrism and misanthropy.  J Abnorm Soc Psychol.1954;49:246-250.
Henderson G, Primeaux M. Transcultural Health Care. Menlo Park, Calif: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co; 1981.
Gupta AR, Duffy TP, Johnston MAC. Incorporating multiculturalism into a doctor-patient course.  Acad Med.1997;72:428.
Paterson-Kimball C. Yale's program in intracultural medicine.  J Med Educ.1970;45:1032-1040.
Gill PS, Green P. Learning for a multicultural society.  Br J Gen Pract.1996;46:704-705.
Wolf TM, Balson P, Faucett LM, Randall HM. A retrospective study of attitude change during medical education.  Med Educ.1989;23:19-23.

Figures

Tables

Table Graphic Jump LocationTable. Studies Reporting Teaching Programs on Cultural Diversity for Medical Students

References

 Roots of the Future: Ethnic Diversity in the Making of Britain . London, England: Commission for Racial Equality; 1996.
 OPCS/GRO(S) Ethnic Group and Country of Birth, Great Britain.  London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1993.
Owen D. Size, structure and growth of the ethnic minority populations. In: Coleman D, Salt J, eds. Ethnicity in the 1991 Census, 1996, Volume 1: Demographic Characteristics of the Ethnic Minority Populations. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1996:80-123.
Sinclair S. Making Doctors. Oxford, NY: Berg; 1997:196-247.
Straw J. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 February 1999. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1999:col 391.
Macpherson W. Report for the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1999.
Council on Medical Education, American Medical Association.  Enhancing the Cultural Competence of Physicians. Chicago, Ill: American Medical Association; 1998. CME report 5-a-98.
Association of American Medical Colleges.  Teaching and learning of cultural competence in medical school.  Contemp Issues Med Educ.1998;1:1-2.
American Medical Association.  Cultural Competence Compendium. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ethic/diversity/contents.htm. Accessed June 1999.
Kai J. Valuing Diversity: A Resource for Effective Health Care of Ethnically Diverse Communities. London, England: Royal College of General Practitioners; 1999.
Robins S. Multicultural Health CareLondon, England: British Medical Association Scientific Affairs Dept; 1995.
Poulton J, Rylance GW, Johnson MRD. Medical teaching of the cultural aspects of ethnic minorities: does it exist?  Med Educ.1986;20:492-497.
Mulrow CD, Oxman AD. Cochrane Collaboration Handbook [updated September 1997]. In: The Cochrane Library [database on disk and CD-ROM]. Oxford, England: Update Software; 1997. Issue 4.
 The King's Fund, London [Web site]. Available at: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/. Accessed May 1998.
 Centre for Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick [Web site]. Available at: http://www.warwick, ac.uk/fac/soc/CRER-RC/. Accessed May 1998.
 Health Education Authority [Web site]. Available at: http://www.hea.org.uk/. Accessed May 1998.
 European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations, the Netherlands [Web site]. Available at: http://www.ercomer.org/. Accessed May 1998.
 International Centre for Intercultural Studies, University of London [Web site]. Available at: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/ccs/icis/. Accessed May 1998.
 Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford [Web site]. Available at: http://www.qeh.ox.ac.uk/rsp/. Accessed May 1998.
Rubenstein HL, Bonnie JD, O'Connor B.  et al.  Introducing students to the role of folk and popular health belief systems in patient care.  Acad Med.1992;67:566-568.
Kaufert JM, Koolage WW, Kaufert PL, O'Neil JD. The use of "trouble case" examples in teaching the impact of sociocultural and political factors in clinical communication.  Med Anthropol.1984;8:36-45.
Mao C, Bullock CS, Harway EC, Khalsa SK. A workshop on ethnic and cultural awareness for second year students.  J Med Educ.1988;63:624-628.
Rogers KD, Coulehan JL. A community medicine clerkship on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  J Med Educ.1984;59:937-943.
Copeman RC. Medical students, Aborigines and migrants: evaluation of a teaching program.  Med J Aust.1989;150: 84-87.
Johnston MAC. A model program to address insensitive behaviours toward medical students.  Acad Med.1992;67:236-237.
Farnill D, Todisco J, Hayes SC, Bartlett D. Videotaped interviewing of non-English speakers: training for medical students with volunteer clients.  Med Educ.1997;31:87-93.
Gill PS, Adshead D. Teaching cultural aspects of health.  Med Teacher.1996;18:61-64.
Gonzalez-Lee T, Simon H. Teaching Spanish and cross cultural sensitivity to medical students.  West J Med.1987;146:502-504.
Shah CP, Svoboda T, Goel S. The visiting lectureship on Aboriginal health.  Can J Public Health.1996;87:272-274.
Nora LM, Daugherty SR, Mattis-Peterson A.  et al.  Improving cross-cultural skills of medical students through medical school–community partnerships.  West J Med.1994;161:144-147.
Chugh U, Dillmann E, Kurtz SM, Lockyer J, Parboosingh J. Multicultural issues in medical curriculum.  Med Teacher.1993;15:83-91.
Lacey EP. Enhancing interpersonal skills for ethnic diversity in medical practice.  Int Migration Rev.1988;22:301-311.
Wells KB, Benson MC, Hoff P. Teaching cultural aspects of medicine.  J Med Educ.1985;60:493-495.
Nurge E. Anthropological perspective for medical students.  Hum Org.1975;34:345-352.
Sullivan P, Adelson J. Ethnocentrism and misanthropy.  J Abnorm Soc Psychol.1954;49:246-250.
Henderson G, Primeaux M. Transcultural Health Care. Menlo Park, Calif: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co; 1981.
Gupta AR, Duffy TP, Johnston MAC. Incorporating multiculturalism into a doctor-patient course.  Acad Med.1997;72:428.
Paterson-Kimball C. Yale's program in intracultural medicine.  J Med Educ.1970;45:1032-1040.
Gill PS, Green P. Learning for a multicultural society.  Br J Gen Pract.1996;46:704-705.
Wolf TM, Balson P, Faucett LM, Randall HM. A retrospective study of attitude change during medical education.  Med Educ.1989;23:19-23.
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