The challenges of cross-cultural research and teaching in family medicine

The challenges of cross-cultural research and teaching in family medicine: How can professional networks help??

Author: Howe, Amanda Caroline

Modern medical training emphasizes the value of understanding the patient’s ideas, concerns and expectations, and the use of their personal perspective to assist communication, diagnosis, and uptake of all appropriate health and treatment options. This requires doctors to be ‘culturally sensitive’, which “… involves an awareness and acceptance of cultural differences, self-awareness, knowledge of a patient’s culture, and adaptation of skills”. Yet most of us work in one country, and often one community, for much of our professional careers. Those who enter into academic pursuits will similarly be constrained by our own backgrounds and experiences, even though universities and medical schools often attract a multicultural membership. We therefore rely on our professional training and networks to extend our scope and understanding of how cultural issues impact upon our research and its relevance to our discipline and curricula. This article uses a reflexive narrative approach to examine the role and value of international networks through the lens of one individual and one organisation. It explores the extent to which such networks assist cross cultural sensitivity, using examples from its networks, and how these can (and have) impacted on greater cross-culturalism in our teaching and research outputs.