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Cultural Competency: Research

Significant criticisms of cultural competency have been raised. This guide also provides resources related to structural competency and cultural humility, as well as racism and bias in medicine. 

GW Resources

Resources from Organizations

Additional Training Opportunities


The following MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) terms may be useful for PubMed and MEDLINE searches:

  • Cultural Competency
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Culturally Competent Care
  • Prejudice
  • Clinical Competence
  • Professional Competence
  • Stereotyping
  • Unconscious, Psychology


The following CINAHL Subject Heading terms may be useful for CINAHL searches:

  • Cultural Competence
  • Culture
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Transcultural Care
  • Transcultural Nursing
  • Professional Practice

MedEd PORTAL Publications

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Conducting Research

Key Terms and Definitions


"Attitudes and behaviors, which are characteristic of a group or community." (HRSA, 2019)

Cultural Competence

"A set of similar behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations." (HRSA, 2019)

Cultural Humility

See: Masters C, Robinson D, Faulkner S, Patterson E, McIlraith T, Ansari A. Addressing Biases in Patient Care with The 5Rs of Cultural Humility, a Clinician Coaching Tool. J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Apr;34(4):627-630. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4814-y. Epub 2019 Jan 8. PMID: 30623383; PMCID: PMC6445906..

Cultural Safety

See: Why cultural safety rather than cultural competency is required to achieve health equity: a literature review and recommended definition (Curtis, E., Jones, R., Tipene-Leach, D., Walker, C., Loring, B., Paine, S. J., & Reid, P., 2019). The article presents a number of definitions for different terms, as collected from a literature review, and recommends a definition for cultural safety. 

Culturally Adapted Health Care

See January 2020 article from County Health Rankings for background reading 

Statistical Discrimination

"occurs when providers respond to the inherent uncertainty of the diagnostic and treatment processes by interpreting the data and information relevant to a minority patient differently from the way they do with white patients"... involves "misusing and misapplying factually accurate information to reach an inaccurate conclusion concerning the specific patient."

See pages 98-99 in Matthew (2015). 

Matthew, D. (2015). Just medicine : a cure for racial inequality in American health care. New York University Press.

Available online through Himmelfarb. 

Structural Competency

"the trained ability to discern how a host of issues defined clinically as symptoms, attitudes, or diseases (e.g., depression, hypertension, obesity, smoking, medication “non-compliance,” trauma, psychosis) also represent the downstream implications of a number of upstream decisions about such matters as health care and food delivery systems, zoning laws, urban and rural infrastructures, medicalization, or even about the very definitions of illness and health" (Metzl & Hansen 2014)

See also: Spring 2014 article, With Understanding Comes Empowerment, from New Physician and Sep 2014 article, Structural Competency Meets Structural Racism: Race, Politics, and the Structure of Medical Knowledge, from AMA Journal of Medical Ethics. 

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