By AOA Past President Norman E. Vinn, DO
Osteopathic physicians belong to a profession that we hold in high esteem. We have unique tools to help people in our communities overcome illness and lead healthier lives. Because of the great responsibility we have assumed, we must also maintain the highest professional standards. That’s one reason why DOs, as part of our Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment, take a vow to display integrity and professionalism throughout our careers.
There are many ways to display professionalism, such as achieving and maintaining cultural competency. Our patient base likely includes unfamiliar cultures and ethnicities. Regardless of these diversities, good patient care requires effective, relevant communication. Every one of our patients deserves to be treated as the most important person in the world—which, when we are rendering their care, they are.
Not only am I the founder of Housecall Doctors Medical Group, Inc., I’m also one of its practicing physicians engaged in direct patient care (when I’m not travelling for the AOA). Our patient population in Southern California represents cultures that are strikingly diverse—African-American, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander. We are constantly challenged to interpret the patient history within a cultural context, since patient reactions to diagnoses, treatments and other health issues such as advance directives are often influenced by their specific culture. While we cannot be aware of all cultural nuances, awareness and sensitivity are crucial components of effective patient care.
At the AOA, we’re helping members expand their knowledge on cultural competency. The Council on Minority Health Issues (CMHI) promotes cultural awareness, sensitivity and competency among all DOs. In the last couple of years, the CMHI has presented education activities at OMED including a program about pain in diverse patient populations as well as cardiovascular health and brain health in minority populations. We urge you to take advantage of these well-received programs by joining us at OMED 2014 in Seattle, Oct. 25-29.
In the interim, think about the Pledge. Do your best to live the Pledge each and every day. And let us know, in the comment section below, what we, at the AOA, can do to help you be a successful, culturally competent and clinically effective DO.