After reading the first two words up above you must be thinking, I’m a Pre-Med student, why do I need to know about being culturally diverse? I need to worry about Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry and physics, the MCAT, along with all the other things that come with applying to medical school. However, being aware of cultural, lingual, and gender differences is a vital part of becoming a future physician.
As a 3rd year Pre-Med student, I have learned in the last 3 years how important it is to have a breadth of knowledge when concerned with different cultures, religions and languages. As the United States is becoming more diverse, so is healthcare; thus it is important for the nation to breed future physicians who are accepting, knowledgeable, and culturally diverse. A physician meets people from all walks of life on a day-to-day basis. Their job is to interact with his or her patients, meeting people from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Often times patients come in speaking other languages, asking to only see a certain gender physician, dressed in their traditional attire and it is important for physicians to understand, respect, comply with the values, beliefs, and cultural differences of their patients, resulting in the best care. They have to change the way they treat and interact based upon what is best for the patient. The whole purpose is to avoid cultural barriers between the patient and physician interaction, which can result in a less therapeutic outcome. And, in order to achieve this successfully, future physicians (YOU) need to be culturally diverse and aware.
Now you might be asking, how do I prepare for this as a Pre-Med student while focusing on all the other necessary components for medical school? Well, you could take on a minor: perhaps take some religion, anthropology, language, and history classes, to experience and explore that aspect of life. Another option would be to travel to another country, perhaps a country where you can speak the native language, and serve the people in a healthcare or even in a non-healthcare related program. Furthermore, maybe start volunteering and working in a hospital or doctors office in an urban location so you are exposed to people from all different backgrounds and experience how physicians are reacting and using their interpersonal skills, as well as their medical knowledge to treat them. Not only would these endeavors help you become more culturally aware and diverse but they will also help you stand out on your application and boost your resume.
So go out, explore the world, gain some knowledge about languages, cultures, religions, and beliefs and take a break from physics equations, chemistry dimensional analysis, and organic chemistry structures. Broaden your horizon and prepare yourself to be a great physician!
Stay tuned for Puja’s next article!
Puja Singh is a 3rd year student at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia in an 8-year BS/MD program.