Letters to the Editor
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
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.