Do MDs need cultural competency training?

August 1, 2005

Evidently New Jersey lawmakers think they do. In an effort to raise awareness of and sensitivity toward racial and ethnic groups, New Jersey legislators have passed a law requiring physicians to complete cultural competency training to obtain or renew their licenses to practice. Arizona, California, Illinois, and New York are considering similar legislation, which would reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care, reports American Medical News (4/25/05).

Evidently New Jersey lawmakers think they do. In an effort to raise awareness of and sensitivity toward racial and ethnic groups, New Jersey legislators have passed a law requiring physicians to complete cultural competency training to obtain or renew their licenses to practice. Arizona, California, Illinois, and New York are considering similar legislation, which would reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health care, reports American Medical News (4/25/05).

In Arizona and New York, the respective legislatures are considering proposals requiring medical schools to provide cultural competency training required for graduation. In California, lawmakers are debating whether to turn an existing, voluntary program-one that encourages physicians to learn a foreign language and cultural beliefs-into a required continuing education course. In Illinois, the Senate is considering a bill that would create a voluntary program to teach foreign languages and cultural understanding to physicians.

While many medical society leaders support raising physicians' awareness of cultural differences through voluntary initiatives, they do not support mandatory programs. Instead, they believe that continuing education decisions should be left to the physician.