Promoting cultural awareness, professionalism, and communication skills in medicine through anatomy: The Deaf culture session

Clin Anat. 2021 May 13. doi: 10.1002/ca.23752. Online ahead of print.


The anatomy curriculum is a place where professionalism can be learned and practiced, including training in cultural competence and communication skills for working with diverse populations. One population that has received little attention in terms of medical education are d/Deaf and hard of hearing (d/DHH) patients, although there is much evidence to support health care disparities in this population. Several major contributing factors include differing views of deafness between medical professionals and those who are culturally Deaf, a lack of understanding of Deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL) by medical professionals, a lack of educational resources in ASL, and poor experiences in health care. To address this need, a Deaf Culture Applied Anatomy session was incorporated into the first-year curriculum at Morehouse School of Medicine while medical students were studying anatomy of the ear and hearing. Panelists, who were culturally Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children of deaf adults, shared their experiences in healthcare, including challenges they faced with communication and care. Surveys were provided to students before and after the panel session. Surveys indicated a lack of knowledge prior to this session, while also demonstrating that this 90-min session improved students' understanding of effective communication with future patients and issues related to deafness. Qualitative feedback also suggested that the students found the session to be personally and professionally beneficial. Implementing the Deaf Culture session was an effective means for introducing students to Deaf culture and working with d/DHH patients.

Keywords: anatomy; communication; delivery of healthcare; ear; health equity; hearing loss; medical education; neuroanatomy; professionalism; sign language.