Culturally competent physicians can reduce disparities

Robert M. Wah, MD , Former President

Last week, I wrote about what physicians are doing to tackle health care disparities. One of the ways we can reduce health care disparities is to ensure we’re promoting diversity in the health care workforce. As an educator, this is important to me.

Diversity and cultural competency are aspects of physician training that some of the schools awarded grants from the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative are working on. Schools are moving to competency-based curriculum, which can potentially reduce the time needed for medical school, meaning it’s less expensive. They’re also focusing on population health in their local communities.

For example, the University of California Davis School of Medicine’s new three-year primary care program, ACE-PC, has developed an innovative admissions and recruitment program to select students from diverse backgrounds, with the goal of these students going on to work in underserved communities as primary care physicians. Half of the students admitted into the first class of the program are from groups historically underrepresented in medicine.

We, as physicians, should ensure we’re an accurate reflection of the population we serve. A broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences can unite us in improving health care overall and in our local communities. This starts with attracting and retaining a diverse medical school body.

To dive further into this topic, the AMA is hosting an online Google Hangout to discuss the most important factors in attracting a medical student body that reflects a diverse patient population.

Experts, educators and physicians in training will hang out online from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time Oct. 20 Anyone can watch the event live or stream it later. To participate in the live-streaming event, simply visit the Hangout page. If you would like to post questions for the panelists to answer, you will need to be a Google user. Participate in the discussion on Twitter and Facebook using #AMAHangout.

Tonya Fancher, MD, UC Davis’ associate director for curriculum, will be answering questions as a panelist. Dr. Fancher will join Walter Bland, MD, associate dean for student affairs and admissions at the Howard University College of Medicine, and Jalia Tucker, a second-year medical student at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. William McDade, MD, chair of the AMA Council on Medical Education and deputy provost for research and minority issues at the University of Chicago, will moderate the hangout.

I hope you’ll join the hangout, or just listen to the discussion, about what medical schools can do to ensure students have the appropriate cultural competencies. The hangout is being jointly organized by the Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative and the AMA Minority Affairs Section.