Teaching residents to care for culturally diverse populations

Acad Med. 1998 Oct;73(10):1056-61. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199810000-00012.


The authors discuss the growing need for primary care residents to learn how to care for patients of many cultural backgrounds. To effectively learn the needed skills, residents must incorporate insights from areas outside medicine. The authors focus on three such areas: cultural competency, public health, and community-oriented primary care. Regarding cultural competency, the authors make clear that on the one hand, physicians must be trained to be sensitive to cultural differences and patterns, but on the other, they cannot be expected to know the many cultures of their patients in depth. They discuss the Core Curriculum Guidelines on Culturally Sensitive and Competent Health Care created by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Regarding community-oriented primary care (COPC), a process introduced from Europe in 1982, the authors state that one of its key elements is to provide accessible care to diverse and often underserved populations. However, various factors have kept COPC, and the federally funded community health centers that address the concerns of COPC, from having the widespread effects they could have. Regarding public health, the authors review the various services and orientations of public health and show how these help foster care for diverse populations. The authors then briefly describe their own residency program and its work with diverse populations. They conclude by emphasizing the importance for residents of learning the principles and practices embodied in cultural competency, public health, and COPC in order to effectively communicate with their patients.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Community Medicine
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Health Services, Indigenous
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Language
  • Primary Health Care
  • Professional Competence
  • Public Health Administration
  • San Francisco
  • United States