The role that graduate medical education must play in ensuring health equity and eliminating health care disparities

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 May;11(4):603-7. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201402-068PS.


Despite the 2002 Institute of Medicine report that described the moral and financial impact of health care disparities and the need to address them, it is evident that health care disparities persist. Recommendations for addressing disparities include collecting and reporting data on patient race and ethnicity, supporting language interpretation services, increasing awareness of health care disparities through education, requiring cultural competency training for all health care professionals, and increasing diversity among those delivering health care. The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education places strong emphasis on graduate medical education's role in eliminating health care disparities by asking medical educators to objectively evaluate and report on their trainees' ability to practice patient-centered, culturally competent care. Moreover, one of the objectives of the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education Clinical Learning Environment Review visits as part of the Next Accreditation System is to identify how sponsoring institutions engage residents and fellows in the use of data to improve systems of care, reduce health care disparities, and improve patient outcomes. Residency and fellowship programs should ensure the delivery of meaningful curricula on cultural competency and health care disparities, for which there are numerous resources, and ensure resident assessment of culturally competent care. Moreover, training programs and institutional leadership need to collaborate on ensuring data collection on patient satisfaction, outcomes, and quality measures that are broken down by patient race, cultural identification, and language. A diverse physician workforce is another strategy for mitigating health care disparities, and using strategies to enhance faculty diversity should also be a priority of graduate medical education. Transparent data about institutional diversity efforts should be provided to interested medical students, residents, and faculty. Graduate medical education has a clear charge to ensure a generation of physicians who are firmly grounded in the principles of practicing culturally competent care and committed to the reduction of health care disparities.

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Competency / education*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • United States