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September 1, 1999

Educating Medical Students for Work in Culturally Diverse Societies

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Primary Care and General Practice, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England.

JAMA. 1999;282(9):875-880. doi:10.1001/jama.282.9.875

Context Recent attention has focused on whether government health service institutions, particularly in the United Kingdom, reflect cultural sensitivity and competence and whether medical students receive proper guidance in this area.

Objective To systematically identify educational programs for medical students on cultural diversity, in particular, racial and ethnic diversity.

Data Sources The following databases were searched: MEDLINE (1963–August 1998); Bath International Data Service (BIDS) Institute for Scientific Information science and social science citation indexes (1981–August 1998); BIDS International Bibliography for the Social Sciences (1981–August 1998); and the Educational Resources Information Centre (1981–August 1998). In addition, the following online data sets were searched: Kings Fund; Centre for Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick; Health Education Authority; European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations, University of Utrecht; International Centre for Intercultural Studies, University of London; the Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford. Medical education and academic medicine journals (1994-1998) were searched manually and experts in medical education were contacted.

Study Selection Studies included in the analysis were articles published in English before August 1998 that described specific programs for medical students on racial and ethnic diversity. Of 1456 studies identified by the literature search, 17 met the criteria. Two of the authors performed the study selection independently.

Data Extraction The following data were extracted: publication year, program setting, student year, whether a program was required or optional, the teaching staff and involvement of minority racial and ethnic communities, program length, content and teaching methods, student assessment, and nature of program evaluation.

Data Synthesis Of the 17 selected programs, 13 were conducted in North America. Eleven programs were exclusively for students in years 1 or 2. Fewer than half (n=7) the programs were part of core teaching. Only 1 required program reported that the students were assessed on the session in cultural diversity.

Conclusions Our study suggests that there is limited information available on an increasingly important subject in medical education. Further research is needed to identify effective components of educational programs on cultural diversity and valid methods of student assessment and program evaluation.