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Hawaii Med J. 2011 Nov;70(11 Suppl 2):15-9.

An innovative approach to developing a cultural competency curriculum; efforts at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

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  • 1Department of Native Hawaiian Health, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i, 677 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.



Initial efforts to teach cultural competency at the University of Hawai'i John A. Burns School of Medicine began in the late 1990s through the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence. With the formation of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health in 2003, cultural competency training was added as a key area of focus for the department. A multidisciplinary team was formed to do the ground work. Physicians (Family Medicine and Internal Medicine) and an administrator (MBA now at Queens Medical Center) from the Department of Native Hawaiian Health were joined by a cultural anthropologist (Department of Family Medicine and Community Health), a social worker (UH Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work), and a retired DrPH/Registered Dietician from the State Department of Health to form the cultural competency curriculum team. All but one of the team members is Native Hawaiian.


As cultural competency training is a relatively new, rapidly developing field, there is no consensus on how to teach it. The department decided early on to focus on a variety of methodologies using Native Hawaiian health as the curriculum's foundation. Many different paths were taken toward the development of the present curriculum which utilized different components within the medical school's curriculum. This paper describes the process and development of a cultural competency training curriculum at the University of Hawai'i medical school. Recent literature recommendations by experts in the field reinforce the current curricular content that resulted from this developmental process.

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