Together, these studies indicate that a physician’s race can affect patients’ perceptions, trust and decision-making, independent of the physician’s behavior, but also that there are specific attitudes and skills that may allow physicians to overcome barriers that racial differences impose on their interactions with patients.
Saha, who was promoted to associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University in 2005, continued his cultural competence research after he completed the Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program. Under a National Institutes of Health grant, he developed and tested tools to measure cultural competence and racial bias among physicians, including refining the Culture and Medicine Survey (2007–09, $346,500).
“This program was pivotal in my career. It gave me unconditional support to do the work I wanted to do and made me really feel my work was valued and important,” said Saha. “It was an opportunity to be a part of a network of amazing thinkers and future leaders and people who could stimulate my own thinking and progress.”
RWJF Perspective: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program to create a cadre of respected generalist leaders in medical schools who would be in a position to influence curriculum, admissions and scholarship. Junior faculty in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics conducted research and built their careers under the guidance of mentors.
“Given the shortage of primary care physicians, we need innovative approaches to encourage medical students to choose careers in generalist fields. The Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program was designed to emphasize a scholarly foundation for generalism and improve the quality of the education provided to students who choose this important career path,” said Pamela S. Dickson, MBA, assistant vice president of RWJF’s Health Care Group.
When the program ended in 2008, RWJF created the Robert Wood Johnson Physician Faculty Scholars Program to strengthen the leadership and academic productivity of junior medical school faculty who are dedicated to improving health and health care. It is open not only to generalists, but all physicians.