Cultural competency efforts have received much attention in medical education. Most efforts focus on the acquisition of knowledge and skills about various groups based on race and ethnic identity, national origins, religion, and the like. The authors propose an approach, “Cultural Competency 2.0,” that does not reject such efforts but, rather, adds a more critical and expanded focus on learners’ attitudes and beliefs toward people unlike themselves. Cultural Competency 2.0 includes learners’ examination of the social position of most U.S. medical students, Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, and the phenomenon of countertransference to come to new critical insights on learners’ attitudes, beliefs, and, ultimately, interactions with all patients. Suggestions are offered for how and where Cultural Competency 2.0 can be used in the curriculum through narrative medicine, particularly through the development of reading practices that unmask illusions of “pure” objectivity often assumed in clinical settings, and that make visible how words and images constrain, manipulate, or empower individuals, groups, ideas, or practices.
The authors argue that these educational approaches should be sustained throughout the students’ clinical experiences, where they encounter patients of many kinds and see clinicians’ varied approaches to these patients. Further, these educational approaches should include assisting students in developing strategies to exercise moral courage within the limitations of their hierarchical learning environments, to strengthen their voices, and, when possible, to develop a sense of fearlessness: to always be advocates for their patients and to do what is right, fair, and good in their care.