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Med Educ. 2003 Oct;37(10):861-8.

A hidden curriculum: mapping cultural competency in a medical programme.

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Lund University, Lund, Sweden.



Cultural competency can be understood as those learned skills which help us understand cultural differences and ease communication between people who have different ways of understanding health, sickness and the body. Recently, medical schools have begun to recognise a need for cultural competency training. However, few reports have been published that articulate and evaluate cultural competency in medical curricula.


This study was performed in order to evaluate the current status of cultural competency training at a medical school in southern Sweden.


We used a multimethod approach to curriculum evaluation. We reviewed the published list of learning objectives for the medical programme, interviewed curriculum directors and individual teachers for each term about course content and carried out focus group interviews with students in all stages of the medical programme.


Cultural competency is a present but mostly hidden part of the curriculum. We found learning objectives about cultural competency. Teachers reported a total of 25 instances of teaching that had culture or cultural competency as the main theme or 1 of many themes. Students reported few specific learning instances where cultural competency was the main theme. Students and teachers considered cultural competency training to be integrated into the medical programme. Cultural competency was not assessed.


This evaluation showed places in the curriculum where cultural competency is a present, absent or hidden part of the curriculum. The differences between the 3 perspectives on the curriculum lead us to propose curriculum changes. This study illustrates how triangulation with a multifactorial methodology leads to understanding of the current curriculum and changes for the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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