Cultural competence in health care provision has been broadly identified as the need for providers to acknowledge, address, or incorporate an understanding of the cultural and social context of patients' lives into the process of treating and managing patient's illnesses. However, how cultural competence can be incorporated has been the subject of debates in biomedicine and anthropology, and has often been met with difficulties in physician practice. These challenges arise from differing perspectives about how cultural competence is understood and institutional neglect of culturally relevant education. While the need for cultural competence integration into health care practitioner training during medical school education has been discussed for over six decades, effective incorporation of cultural competence into medical curriculum remains a multifaceted topic of interdisciplinary debate and a challenging task. The purpose of this project is to evaluate cultural competence integration in Southeastern medical school curriculum. Theoretically, this research utilizes critical medical anthropology as developed by anthropologists Arthur Kleinman, Janelle Taylor and Nancy Sheper-Hughes as a theoretical lens through which cultural competency implementation in Southeastern medical school curricula can be examined curricula Southeastern. This research also fills an interdisciplinary gap in both anthropological and medical scholarly knowledge bases. Methodologically, multiple project parameters have been explored utilizing qualitative data collection methods of cultural competence background and evaluation. This research combines primary data collection and secondary data analysis. Primary data collection involved interviewing individuals from Florida medical institutions concerning their experience and personal views of the benefit of cultural competence integration. The analysis of secondary data explored the integration of cultural competence into medical school curricula. These analyses include an examination of the content, format, and language of Southeastern medical school curricula, demographic trends as related to cultural competence in health care, federal grant allocation as related to cultural competence in health care, and institutional perspectives on incorporating social science concepts in medical education. This thesis makes three distinct but interrelated claims: (1) I argue that based on the provided descriptions of medical institution curriculum guides, there is a substantial discrepancy between the cultural competency incorporation claims made by the schools and what is actually integrated into their curriculum; (2) I argue that cultural competence integration must be delivered vertically across disciplines and horizontally across the entire four year span of medical education, and (3) Available ethnographic guides are presented with too narrow of a focus to apply to all medical school curricula. Understanding the shortcomings of medical school curricula in incorporating cultural competence training is significant because it draws attention to the need to develop more effective and systematic ways to train future health care providers to address the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population.


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Thesis Completion





Mishtal, Joanna


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Office of Undergraduate Studies


Interdisciplinary Studies

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

Included in

Anthropology Commons