Send to

Choose Destination
J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2018 Feb;5(1):34-49. doi: 10.1007/s40615-017-0340-6. Epub 2017 Mar 24.

Self-Awareness and Cultural Identity as an Effort to Reduce Bias in Medicine.

Author information

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Allies for Health, Reno, NV, USA.
Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Boston University School of Medicine and Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.
Tufts University School of Medicine, Portland, ME, USA.
Harvard University Health Service, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Brookside Community Health Center AND Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


In response to persistently documented health disparities based on race and other demographic factors, medical schools have implemented "cultural competency" coursework. While many of these courses have focused on strategies for treating patients of different cultural backgrounds, very few have addressed the impact of the physician's own cultural background and offered methods to overcome his or her own unconscious biases. In hopes of training physicians to contextualize the impact of their own cultural background on their ability to provide optimal patient care, the authors created a 14-session course on culture, self-reflection, and medicine. After completing the course, students reported an increased awareness of their blind spots and that providing equitable care and treatment would require lifelong reflection and attention to these biases. In this article, the authors describe the formation and implementation of a novel medical school course on self-awareness and cultural identity designed to reduce unconscious bias in medicine. Finally, we discuss our observations and lessons learned after more than 10 years of experience teaching the course.


Cross-cultural literacy; Cultural anthropology; Cultural competency; Cultural humility; Diversity; Health disparities; Health equity; Intersectionality; Medical education; Microaggression; Resiliency enhancement; Self-awareness; Stereotyping; Unconscious bias


Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center