WAUKESHA, WIS.— An article co-written by four Carroll University faculty and staff has been published in the Journal of Physician Assistant Education.
“Integrating Cultural Competency Throughout a First-Year Physician Assistant Curriculum Steadily Improves Cultural Awareness” discusses a ground-breaking program to teach first-year students in Carroll’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program how to effectively treat patients from cultures other than their own. It was written by Dr. Barbra Beck, associate professor of public health; Dr. Matthew Scheel, assistant professor of psychology; Kathleen De Oliveira, coordinator of the physician assistant studies grant; and Dr. Jane Hopp, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Health Sciences and Business.
In September 2010, Carroll received a $967,687 federal grant to support its PA program, which includes a cultural competency component focusing on developing students' abilities to provide effective treatment to minority populations and the medically underserved. Carroll launched its PA program in June 2011; the first class of 19 students graduated in May 2013.
In the article, the authors note that while some other PA programs incorporate elements of cultural competency, “there is limited research on the effectiveness” of these initiatives. The Carroll PA faculty conducted a research project to test the effectiveness of the cultural competency component of its curriculum. Through self-reported surveys, first-year PA students tracked their cultural awareness at three intervals throughout the year. Results showed that students did increase their understanding of cultural differences as they progressed through that first year.
In an editor’s note accompanying the article, Dr. Michael Huckabee notes that those administering other PA programs “ … will be interested to know of this curricular innovation that shows promise to inculcate at the beginning of PA students’ professional education awareness of cultural factors affecting patient care.”