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AEM Educ Train. 2019 Dec 19;4(Suppl 1):S88-S97. doi: 10.1002/aet2.10416. eCollection 2020 Feb.

Toward Structural Competency in Emergency Medical Education.

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Department of Emergency Medicine Emory University Atlanta GA.
Department of Anthropology Emory University Atlanta GA.
Department of Emergency Medicine Yale School of Medicine New Haven CT.
Department of Emergency Medicine University of Colorado at Denver Denver CO.
Department of Emergency Medicine Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia PA.


As the emergency department (ED) is the "front door" of the hospital and the primary site by which most patients access the health care system, issues of inequity are especially salient for emergency medicine (EM) practice. Improving the health of ED patients, especially those who are stigmatized and disenfranchised, depends on having emergency physicians that are cognizant and attentive to their needs in and out of the medical encounter. EM resident education has traditionally incorporated a "cultural competency" model to equip residents with tools to combat individual bias and stigma. Although this framework has been influential in drawing attention to health inequities, it has also been criticized for its potential to efface differences within groups (such as socioeconomic differences), overstate cultural or racial differences, and unintentionally reinforce stereotypes or blaming of patients for their ill health or difficult circumstances. In contrast, emerging frameworks of structural competency call for physicians to recognize the ways in which health outcomes are influenced by complex, interrelated structural forces (e.g., poverty, racism, gender discrimination, immigration policy) and to attend to these causes of poor health. We present here the framework of structural competency, extending it to the unique ED setting. We provide tangible illustrations of the ways in which this framework is relevant to the ED setting and can be incorporated in EM education.

[Available on 2020-12-19]

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