, Volume 25, Issue 2 Supplement, pp 198-199
Date: 30 Mar 2010

What Matters in Health Disparities Education—Changing Hearts or Minds?

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All medical educators face this question when planning curricula and in the daily course of teaching: “Is it enough to give our students the cognitive tools they need to function effectively, in the form of knowledge or skills, or should we also focus on their attitudes and motivation—their affective inclination and desire to use these tools?” In other words, should we focus on students′ hearts or minds? As several of the manuscripts in this Supplement illustrate, this question is particularly contentious in the context of teaching about health disparities and cultural competency, when addressing students′ attitudes and motivation can be seen as an educator passing judgment1,2.

The hearts and minds question is especially relevant when teaching interpersonal aspects of care, such as respect and empathy. Some educators prefer to teach specific skills–greet the patient when you come into the room, reflect back the emotion expressed by the patient, etc. An appealing aspect of skills-based t ...