Cross-cultural Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Development of an Assessment Tool


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Abstract

PurposeMedical education is responding to an increasingly diverse population and to regulatory and quality-of-care requirements by developing cross-cultural curricula in health care. This undertaking has proved problematic because there is no consensus on what elements of cross-cultural medicine should be taught. Further, less is known about what is being taught. This study hypothesized that a tool could be developed to assess common themes, concepts, learning objectives, and methods in cross-cultural education.MethodIn 2001, 31 U.S. medical schools were invited to provide the researchers all written and/or Web-based materials related to implementing cross-cultural competency in their curricula. A tool was developed to measure teaching methods, skill sets, and eight content areas in cross-cultural education.ResultsA total of 19 medical schools supplied their curricular materials. There was considerable variation in approaches to teaching and in the content of cross-cultural education across the schools. Most emphasized teaching general themes, such as the doctor–patient relationship, socioeconomic status, and racism. Most also focused on specific cultural information about the ethnic communities they served. Few schools extensively addressed health care access and language issues.ConclusionsThis assessment tool is an important step toward developing a standard nomenclature for measuring the success of cross-cultural education curricula. On the national level, the tool can be used to compare program components and encourage the exchange of effective teaching tools by promoting a common language, which will be essential for developing and implementing curricula, for comparing programs, and evaluating their effects on quality of care.

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