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J Natl Med Assoc. 2012 Sep-Oct;104(9-10):404-11.

A preclinical medical student curriculum to introduce health disparities and cultivate culturally responsive care.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center, Family Medicine Department, 3900 Reservoir Rd NW, GM4 Preclinical Science Bldg, Washington, DC 20007, USA.



To evaluate the efficacy of a newly reformed curriculum for teaching culturally responsive care and to build awareness of health and health care disparities in first-year medical students. Secondary outcomes were to determine if a progressive approach to teaching this content would improve not only knowledge of vulnerable groups but also awareness of inherent personal biases and cultural assumptions, which contribute to inequitable care.


Students enrolled in Social and Cultural Issues in Health Care from October 2009 through December 2009, who agreed to participate, completed pretests and posttests that assessed their awareness and knowledge of culturally responsive care and health disparities.


In 3 of the questions assessing cultural awareness, the participants improved significantly after the course compared to before the course. Participants also significantly improved in 6 of the 7 knowledge-based questions.


Our findings demonstrate that this innovative curriculum was successful in improving students' knowledge of vulnerable populations and health disparities. Our progressive curricular approach also successfully increased participant awareness of health disparities by requiring students to assess the socioeconomic and environmental factors of inequitable care. Additionally, it emphasized a process of continuous self-appraisal in delivering culturally responsive care.

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