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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823a948c
Letters to the Editor

Developing Military Cultural Competency in Health Care Providers

Meyer, Eric MD, Capt, USAF, MC

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Psychiatry resident, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, San Antonio, Texas, and teaching fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland; eric.meyer@us.af.mil.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this letter are solely those of the author and do not represent an endorsement by or the views of the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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To the Editor:

Previous advances in cultural competency education have improved the skills of providers caring for a variety of cultural groups. I maintain that similar educational efforts could have a substantial impact on care for military patients.

These efforts are more important now than ever before. The military population is growing, has increased health needs, and has more difficulty reintegrating with society.1 Meanwhile, diminished military medical resources2 have resulted in an increased reliance on civilian providers with a diverse and sometimes inadequate understanding of military culture.3 And although cultural competency is so critical to clinical care that it is a mandatory component of any medical school's curriculum, medical students and residents are infrequently educated on the impact that military culture and service have on care.

Thanks to the expansion of efforts to detect illnesses prevalent in the military, such as posttraumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury, military cultural curricula are already available. For example, see

* http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/ptsd101/course-modules/military_culture.asp

* http://www.aheconnect.com/citizensoldier/

* http://deploymentpsych.org/training/civilian-practice

These educational tools provide an excellent start and, with strong academic support, could have a broad impact. Simply mentioning the military in any preexisting cultural competency curriculum could spark a conceptual shift. Larger efforts might include requiring completion of an online course before rotating at a Veterans Administration (VA) or military hospital. With increasing numbers of programs partnering with the VA,4 this can be a viable mechanism to educate medical students, residents, and providers nationwide about a population that deserves our best efforts.

Eric Meyer, MD, Capt, USAF, MC

Psychiatry resident, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, San Antonio, Texas, and teaching fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland; eric.meyer@us.af.mil.

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References

1 Sayer NA, Noorbaloochi S, Frazier P, Carlson K, Gravely A, Murdoch M. Reintegration problems and treatment interests among Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans receiving VA medical care. Psychiatr Serv. 2010;61:589–597.

2 Koenig HM. The Health Professions Scholarship Program Is Not Meeting the Military's Requirements for Physicians. http://www.usminstitute.org/pdf/HPSP.pdf. Accessed August 29, 2011.

3 Friedman MJ. Posttraumatic stress disorder among military returnees from Afghanistan and Iraq. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163:586–593.

4 Atre-Vaidya N. The impact of VA and Navy Hospital collaboration on medical school education. Acad Psychiatry. 2009;33:13–16.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges

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