Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 175–188 | Cite as

Ethics, Cultural Competence, and the Changing Face of America

  • Terri LawsEmail author
  • Janice A. Chilton


The population in the United States is increasingly multicultural. So, too, is the U.S. physician workforce. The combination of these diversity dynamics sets up the potential for various types of cultural conflict in the nation’s examining rooms, including the relationship between religion and medicine. To address the changing patient-physician landscape, we argue for a broad scale intervention: interdisciplinary bioethics training for physicians and other health professionals. This approach seeks to promote a common procedural expectation and language which can lead to an improved, patient-centered approach resulting in better patient-physician relationships that contribute to better health outcomes across the U.S. population. The authors illustrate their thesis and solution using a well-known case of cross-cultural dynamics taken from religion and medicine—Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down.


Bioethics Patient-physician relationship Physician workforce diversity Religion and medicine 



This research paper was developed with support by Award Number RC2MD004764 from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities or the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Disparities ResearchThe University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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