Cultural Competency Interventions During Medical School: a Scoping Review and Narrative Synthesis

  • Juan R. DelizEmail author
  • Fayola F. Fears
  • Kai E. Jones
  • Jenny Tobat
  • Douglas Char
  • Will R. Ross
Review Article


Many medical accreditation bodies agree that medical students should be trained to care for diverse patient populations. However, the teaching methods that medical schools employ to accomplish this goal vary widely. The purpose of this work is to summarize current cultural competency teaching for medical students and their evaluation methods. A scoping review was completed by searching the databases PubMed, Scopus, MedEdPORTAL, and MEDLINE for the search terms “medical education” and “cultural competency” or “cultural competence.” Results were summarized using a narrative synthesis technique. One hundred fifty-four articles on cultural competency interventions for medical students were systematically identified from the literature and categorized by teaching methods, length of intervention, and content. Fifty-six articles had a general focus, and ninety-eight articles were focused on specific populations including race/ethnicity, global health, socioeconomic status, language, immigration status, disability, spirituality at the end of life, rurality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. About 54% of interventions used lectures as a teaching modality, 45% of the interventions described were mandatory, and 9.7% of interventions were not formally evaluated. The authors advocate for expansion and more rigorous analysis of teaching methods, teaching philosophies, and outcome evaluations with randomized controlled trials that compare the relative effectiveness of general and population-specific cultural competency interventions.


cultural competence cultural humility culture medical education diversity 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Office of Diversity Programs at Washington University School of Medicine for their support during the development of this manuscript. The authors would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the Medical Education Research Unit at the Office of Medical Student Education at Washington University School of Medicine.

Author Contribution

JRD, FFF, KEJ, JT, DC, and WRR all made equal and significant contributions to this manuscript’s conception and design and to the analysis and interpretation, drafted and revised the manuscript critically for intellectual content, and approved the final version for publication. All authors agree to be held responsible for all aspects of the work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan R. Deliz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fayola F. Fears
    • 1
  • Kai E. Jones
    • 1
  • Jenny Tobat
    • 1
  • Douglas Char
    • 2
  • Will R. Ross
    • 3
  1. 1.Washington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Emergency MedicineWashington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8072St. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Division of Nephrology, Department of MedicineWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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