Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly D. Bradley

Second Advisor

Dr. Karen W. Tice

Abstract

The medical profession in recent decades has made culture and cross-cultural competence an issue for patient – physician relationships. Many in the profession attribute the necessity of cross-cultural competence to increased diversity, globalization, and health disparities; however, a historical analysis of medicine indicates that culture’s relevancy for health care and outcome is not new. The rise of clinics, which can be traced to 17th century France, the professionalization of physicians in 18th century U.S., and the civil rights movement of the 20th century illustrate that medicine, throughout its history, has grappled with culture and health. While medicine has a history of discussing cultural issues, the profession has not defined culture cogently.

Medicine’s ambivalence in defining culture raises questions about how effectively medical educators prepare residents to be cross-culturally competent. Some medical educators have expressed that many didactic and experiential efforts result in stereotyping patients. Definitions of culture and their impact on stereotyping patients are the central problems of this study. Specifically, this study hypothesized that cultural beliefs impact ones willingness to accept stereotypes. Thus, this study sought to learn how faculty members and residents define culture. Faculty members also were compared to residents to glean the impact of cross-cultural education.

This study used an explanatory mixed method design where quantitative and qualitative methods work complementarily to examine a complex construct like culture. A valid and reliable survey provided quantitative data to compare the two groups, while open-ended questions and interviews with faculty members provided context. The statistical results reveal that faculty members and residents share a philosophy of culture; however, when the two groups’ definitions are contextualized, they have many different beliefs. Differences also emerged with respect to predictability; cultural beliefs predict stereotyping among residents, but not faculty members. Faculty members attribute these differences to experiences, while residents believe that they do not learn about culture during their professional education.

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