Initiative Emphasizes Cultural Competence in Health Care Practice

Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD

Published August 22, 2016

The Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement is developing a workshop series to help deepen medical residents’ understanding of the cultural issues that affect health care delivery.

The one-year pilot project has received a $10,000 grant through the Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence program, sponsored by the State University of New York Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

“Our project will assist the school in developing resources to increase medical residents’ awareness of the critical role cultural competence plays in health equity and health care outcomes,” says principal investigator Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for inclusion and cultural enhancement.

Series Covers All Aspects of Cultural Competence

Cultural competency training aims to prepare trainees to enhance their effectiveness at working with culturally diverse people.

The workshops’ purpose will be to engage residents in discussions on topics including unconscious bias, stereotyping, micro-aggressions and factors that contribute to disparities in health care. These factors include poverty, lack of transportation, chronic illness, language and culture.

Workshops will also focus on the importance of bridging patient-physician cultural differences to improve communication. The series will include case studies — related to interactions between patients and providers — that emphasize the importance of cultural competence in health care. 

Additionally, the series will provide demographic data to capture the diversity of the University at Buffalo and the Western New York community.

Collaborating with Multiple Departments

The project’s first participants will be residents in the departments of Medicine and Emergency Medicine.  

Project directors are Roberto O. Diaz Del Carpio, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine and associate program director of the internal medicine residency; and Penelope C. Lema, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of the emergency ultrasound fellowship.

“Our goal is to include the subject of cultural diversity in health care as a permanent element in resident training,” says Dubocovich, who is also a SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Following the project’s first year, the team plans on expanding the project to all departments in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

“The long-term goal is to train all the residents in the medical school and then expand to students, faculty and staff,” Dubocovich adds. 

Additionally, the team plans to share the project with other health science schools, including the schools of Public Health and Health Professions, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dental Medicine and Nursing.

Nonprofit Organization Provides Workshops

The workshops will be delivered by the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo, a local nonprofit organization with years of experience providing training, community education and technical assistance to local social organizations. 

The network formed in 2010 through efforts of a group of advocates in health care, public health, academia and community-based organizations looking to foster strategies for improved community health.