Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 272–282

An Integrative Approach to Cultural Competence in the Psychiatric Curriculum


    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital
  • Lisa Andermann
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital
  • Ari Zaretsky
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital
  • Hung-Tat Lo
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital
Special Article

DOI: 10.1176/appi.ap.32.4.272

Cite this article as:
Fung, K., Andermann, L., Zaretsky, A. et al. Acad Psychiatry (2008) 32: 272. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.32.4.272



As it is increasingly recognized that cultural competence is an essential quality for any practicing psychiatrist, postgraduate psychiatry training programs need to incorporate cultural competence training into their curricula. This article documents the unique approach to resident cultural competence training being developed in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, which has the largest residency training program in North America and is situated in an ethnically diverse city and country.


The authors conducted a systematic review of cultural competence by searching databases including PubMed, Psyc-INFO, PsycArticles, CINAHL, Social Science Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts; by searching government and professional association publications; and through on-site visits to local cross-cultural training programs. Based on the results of the review, a resident survey, and a staff retreat, the authors developed a deliberate “integrative” approach with a mindful, balanced emphasis on both generic and specific cultural competencies.


Learning objectives were derived from integrating the seven core competencies of a physician as defined by the Canadian Medical Education Directions for Specialists (Can-MEDS) roles framework with the tripartite model of attitudes, knowledge, and skills. The learning objectives and teaching program were further integrated across different psychiatric subspecialties and across the successive years of residency. Another unique strategy used to foster curricular and institutional change was the program’s emphasis on evaluation, making use of insights from modern educational theories such as formative feedback and blueprinting. Course evaluations of the core curriculum from the first group of residents were positive.


The authors propose that these changes to the curriculum may lead to enhanced cultural competence and clinical effectiveness in health care.

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© Academic Psychiatry 2006