Category Archives: Cultural competence

Jun 13 2014

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Advocates for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services

Yolanda Ogbolu, Ph.D., CRNP, is an assistant professor of family and community health and deputy director at the Office of Global Health at the University of Maryland-Baltimore. She is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2013-2016).


Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your recent Outstanding Faculty Award from the University of Maryland-Baltimore! What does it mean for you and for your career?

Yolanda Ogbolu: It was an honor to be recognized by the University of Maryland-Baltimore (UMB) and by my colleagues in the school of nursing who nominated me for this award. It specifically identifies a faculty member on campus who has demonstrated achievements in the area of diversity and inclusiveness. It is presented in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Black History Month celebration.

Having my colleagues share and honor my passion for addressing health inequities using the social determinants of health model locally and globally was particularly rewarding, as I reflected on the work of Dr. King and others before me. At the same time, I acknowledge that most of my work benefitted from my passion for collaboration. Therefore, I wholeheartedly shared the award with many people who have assisted me along this path. Receiving the award has strengthened my career and enthusiasm for actively engaging in efforts that move forward the ideals of social justice and health equity in a way that transforms practice and patient outcomes in my local and global communities.

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Apr 29 2014

How to Advance Minority Health? A Diverse, Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Michelle L. Odlum, BSN, MPH, EdD, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University School of Nursing, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Odlum has more than ten years of experience as a disparities researcher. She is a recipient of an RWJF New Connections Junior Investigator award.


As a health disparities researcher, my health promotion and disease prevention efforts are rooted in sociocultural aspects of health. This approach is critical to improved outcomes. In fact, when socioeconomic factors are equalized, race, ethnicity, and culture remain contributing factors to adverse minority health. I have come to understand that the key to combating health disparities lies heavily in cultural understanding. A diverse, culturally competent health care workforce is essential to health equity.

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May 23 2013

Cultural Competency Matters

Regina Stokes Offodile, MD, CHSE, is an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education, Division of Clinical Skills and Competencies at Meharry Medical College.  She currently instructs first- and second-year medical students on clinical skills, physician patient interaction, and clinical correlations of breast disease.  Her research interests include cultural competency.  She is pursuing a Masters in Health Professions Education at Vanderbilt University. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.


Cultural diversity in the health care workforce may be something that many have not thought about or considered a topic of concern.  It is a concept that health care providers, health care delivery systems, and hospitals need to have on their radar. Having a culturally diverse workforce is a matter of patient safety.  Employing a diverse workforce increases the likelihood of having employees who understand how a wide cross section of patients looks at disease, its diagnosis and treatment.  A diverse workforce may also address the language barriers and cultural disconnect that may exist in some health care delivery systems.


In order to meet the increasing culturally diverse patrons of health care, there will be a need to have a corresponding change in the health care workforce. There will also be a burden on medical schools and residency training programs to produce culturally competent physicians, and to increase the number of physicians who are able to interact with and treat a culturally diverse patient population.

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Feb 19 2013

Cross Cultural Medicine Workshop

The American Indian Physicians and Association of American Medical Colleges will host a Cross Cultural Medicine Workshop, March 1-3 in Washington, D.C. The workshop is designed to provide physicians, faculty, medical students, health care professionals, and others with a greater understanding of Western and Traditional Medicine in order to enhance their cultural competence.

Participants will learn to identify strategies to improve cultural competency and communication between American Indian/Alaska Native patients and health care professionals, and learn about the role of traditional healers and the American Indian/Alaska Native approaches to healing and health.

The Association of American Medical Colleges provides technical assistance to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

Learn more and register here.

May 28 2012

New on the Human Capital Section of the RWJF Website

The Human Capital section of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website is frequently updated with stories, profiles and features about the work of the scholars, fellows and grantees the Foundation supports. Check out a few of the new stories:

Grantee Triumphs Over Culture and Politics to Care for Women

When RWJF Clinical Scholar Crista Johnson, MD, realized that Somali, Sudanese, and other refugee or immigrant women who have undergone the traditional practice of female circumcision weren’t receiving desperately needed, culturally sensitive Ob-Gyn care, she checked her opinions at the door and set out to help. Today, she has created a model to help others learn how to treat circumcised women.

For Brain Injury Survivors, New Ways to Connect

RWJF Community Health Leader Fran Rooker is supporting a groundbreaking online program that brings brain injury survivors together despite distances and disabilities to help them overcome the long-term challenges that often come with their injury. Rooker’s telehealth program provides therapeutic supports, coaching, and encouragement.

Teaming Up Helps People Lose Weight

Years of research from RWJF Community Health Leader Rajiv Kumar’s successful Shape Up Rhode Island program has shown that individuals’ weight loss outcomes are significantly influenced by team factors. For instance, having multiple teammates pursuing weight loss and having supportive social interactions among those teammates improves outcomes.

Scholar Publishes "Cliffs Notes" for Colleagues on Top Medical Research

A new book published by RWJF Clinical Scholar Michael Hochman summaries 50 Studies Every Doctor Should Know, making the most influential medical research easily accessible for physicians and emphasizing findings that might help providers make better decisions.

See these stories and more on the Human Capital section of the RWJF website.

Mar 21 2012

The Imperative to Make All Patients Feel Respected and Comfortable

Aasim Padela, MD, MSc, is an emergency medicine physician, health services researcher and bioethicist whose scholarship focuses on the intersection of minority health and bioethics through the lens of the health care experiences of American Muslims. An assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, he is director of Initiative on Islam and Medicine and faculty at the Maclean Center for Clinical Ethics. Padela was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar from 2008 to 2011. His most recent work examines health care accommodations requested by American Muslims that can improve their experiences in the health care system.


Treating patients with understanding and respect is fundamental to health care. As the field has become increasingly focused on metrics and outcomes, we have learned that how comfortable and respected patients feel directly impacts their health outcomes. If you feel uncomfortable with your physician, you are less likely to seek their help, discuss your health concerns with them, or follow their recommendations.

Cultural competency and health care accommodations can help ensure that patients feel as welcome as possible as they seek health resources. While we seek to accommodate patients based on language and culture, we often overlook the ways a shared religion may influence the health of people from different ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups. My research has looked at how we can improve the quality of health care American Muslims receive, particularly through means that account for their shared religiously-informed health care values and experiences. American Muslims are indeed a fast-growing, under-studied and underserved minority.

What we’ve learned provides some actionable steps that may improve health care not only for American Muslims but also for other populations. Our work also points to the need for more research focused on how a shared religion and religious identity impacts community health, and for the health care field to consider larger issues about how we track and deliver health services.

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Jan 17 2012

Healthy Egypt: Egyptian Women

Cleopatra M. Abdou, PhD, is an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program. Her research utilizes experimental, survey, and qualitative methods to investigate how society, culture, stress, and positive resources interact to affect health, well-being, and aging more broadly. Special attention is given in her research to cultural and social influences on health and health-related decisions across the lifespan as well as across multiple generations.


Dr. Abdou recently launched Healthy Egypt, a blog that discusses current health-relevant issues in Egypt while making social and health science concepts accessible to diverse audiences. The topics covered in Healthy Egypt emphasize the experiences of Egyptians, but are relevant to other Arabs and all humans across the globe. The following was originally posted on Healthy Egypt.

The first time I traveled to Egypt alone, I was carrying what turned out to be this magical piece of paper. It was a note from my father, handwritten in Arabic. I walked through the airport in Cairo delirious from the long trip and mesmerized by my surroundings. I was trying to read all of the signs in Arabic while also taking in the sea of faces—more faces similar to my own than I had ever seen in one place before. I noticed the people staring at me, but it did not matter because I was finally in the land of my mother and my father. I thought of my mom, who we lost in childbirth when she was very young, walking through this same airport; and I felt a happiness I can’t describe.

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