June 17, 2010

Designing a Cultural Competency Curriculum: Asking the Stakeholders

Martina L. Kamaka, MD

Hawaii Medical Journal

Background: The design of a cultural competency curriculum can be challenging. The 2002 Institute of Medicine report, Unequal Treatment, challenged medical schools to integrate cross-cultural education into the training of all current and future health professionals. However, there is no current consensus on how to do this. The Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine formed a Cultural Competency Curriculum Development team that was charged with developing a curriculum for the medical school to address Native Hawaiian health disparities. By addressing cultural competency training of physicians, the team is hoping to help decrease the health disparities found in Native Hawaiians. Prior attempts to address culture at the time consisted of conferences sponsored by the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence for faculty and clinicians and Problem Based Learning cases that have imbedded cultural issues.

Objective: Gather ideas from focus groups of Native Hawaiian stakeholders. The stakeholders consisted of Native Hawaiian medical students, patients and physicians. Information from the focus groups would be incorporated into a medical school curriculum addressing Native Hawaiian health and cultural competency training.

Methodology: Focus groups were held with Native Hawaiian medical students, patients and physicians in the summer and fall of 2006. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained from the University of Hawaii as well as the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems. Qualitative analysis of tape recorded data was performed by looking for recurrent themes. Primary themes and secondary themes were ascertained based on the number of participants mentioning the topic.

Results: Amongst all three groups, cultural sensitivity training was either a primary theme or secondary theme. Primary themes were mentioned by all students, by 80% of the physicians and were mentioned in all 4 patient groups. Secondary themes were mentioned by 75% of students, 50% of the physicians and by 75% of patient group. All groups wanted medical students to receive cultural sensitivity training, and all wanted traditional healing to be included in the training. The content of the training differed slightly between groups. Students wanted a diversity of teaching modalities as well as cultural issues in exams in order to emphasize their importance. They also felt that faculty needed cultural competency training. Patients wanted students to learn about the host culture and its values. Physicians felt that personal transformation was an important and effective tool in ultural sensitivity training. Cultural immersion is a potential teaching tool but physicians were concerned about student stages of readiness and adequate preparation for cultural competency training modalities such as cultural immersion.

Conclusions: Cultural competency or sensitivity training was important to patients, students and physicians. The focus group data is being used to help guide the development of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health’s cultural competency curriculum.

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