The medical mission and modern cultural competency training

J Am Coll Surg. 2011 Jan;212(1):124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2010.08.019. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Background: Culture has increasingly appreciated clinical consequences on the patient-physician relationship, and governing bodies of medical education are widely expanding educational programs to train providers in culturally competent care. A recent study demonstrated the value an international surgical mission in modern surgical training, while fulfilling the mandate of educational growth through six core competencies. This report further examines the impact of international volunteerism on surgical residents, and demonstrates that such experiences are particularly suited to education in cultural competency.

Methods: Twenty-one resident physicians who participated in the inaugural Operation Smile Regan Fellowship were surveyed one year after their experiences.

Results: One hundred percent strongly agreed that participation in an international surgical mission was a quality educational experience and 94.7% deemed the experience a valuable part of their residency training. In additional to education in each of the ACGME core competencies, results demonstrate valuable training in cultural competence.

Conclusions: A properly structured and proctored experience for surgical residents in international volunteerism is an effective instruction tool in the modern competency-based residency curriculum. These endeavors provide a unique understanding of the global burden of surgical disease, a deeper appreciation for global public health issues, and increased cultural sensitivity. A surgical mission experience should be widely available to surgery residents.

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Competency*
  • Curriculum
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Medical Missions*
  • Volunteers