Cultural Competence and Ethnic Diversity in Healthcare

Lakshmi Nair, Oluwaseun A. Adetayo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Summary: Today's model of healthcare has persistent challenges with cultural competency, and racial, gender, and ethnic disparities. Health is determined by many factors outside the traditional healthcare setting. These social determinants of health (SDH) include, but are not limited to, education, housing quality, and access to healthy foods. It has been proposed that racial and ethnic minorities have unfavorable SDH that contributes to their lack of access to healthcare. Additionally, African American, Hispanic, and Asian women have been shown to be less likely to proceed with breast reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy compared to Caucasian women. At the healthcare level, there is underrepresentation of cultural, gender, and ethnic diversity during training and in leadership. To serve the needs of a diverse population, it is imperative that the healthcare system take measures to improve cultural competence, as well as racial and ethnic diversity. Cultural competence is the ability to collaborate effectively with individuals from different cultures; and such competence improves health care experiences and outcomes. Measures to improve cultural competence and ethnic diversity will help alleviate healthcare disparities and improve health care outcomes in these patient populations. Efforts must begin early in the pipeline to attract qualified minorities and women to the field. The authors are not advocating for diversity for its own sake at the cost of merit or qualification, but rather, these efforts must evolve not only to attract, but also to retain and promote highly motivated and skilled women and minorities. At the trainee level, measures to educate residents and students through national conferences and their own institutions will help promote culturally appropriate health education to improve cultural competency. Various opportunities exist to improve cultural competency and healthcare diversity at the medical student, resident, attending, management, and leadership levels. In this article, the authors explore and discuss various measures to improve cultural competency as well as ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2219
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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