Starting With Lucy: Focusing on Human Similarities Rather Than Differences to Address Health Care Disparities

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Multicultural or cultural competence education to address health care disparities using the traditional categorical approach can lead to inadvertent adverse consequences. Nontraditional approaches that address these drawbacks while promoting humanistic care are needed.


In September 2014, the Cleveland VA Medical Center’s Center of Excellence in Primary Care Education Transforming Outpatient Care (CoEPCE-TOPC) collaborated with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) to develop the Original Identity program, which uses a biocultural anthropologic framework to help learners recognize and address unconscious bias and starts with a discussion of humans’ shared origins. The program comprises a two-hour initial learning session at the CMNH (consisting of an educational tour in a museum exhibit, a didactic and discussion section, and patient case studies) and a one-hour wrap-up session at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.


The authors delivered the complete Original Identity program four times between March and November 2015, with 30 CoEPCE-TOPC learners participating. Learners’ mean ratings (n = 29; response rate: 97%) for the three initial learning session questions were consistently high (4.2–4.6) using a five-point scale. Comments to an open-ended question and during the audio-recorded wrap-up sessions also addressed the program objectives and key elements (e.g., bias, assumptions, stereotyping).

Next Steps

The authors are completing additional qualitative analysis on the wrap-up session transcriptions to clarify factors that make the program successful, details of learners’ experience, and any interprofessional differences in interpreting content. The authors believe this innovative addition to health care education warrants further research.

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