To prepare students to be effective practitioners in an increasingly diverse United States, medical educators must design cross-cultural curricula, including curricula in women's health. One goal of such education is cultural competence, defined as a set of skills that allow individuals to increase their understanding of cultural differences and similarities within, among, and between groups. In the context of addressing health care needs, including those of women, the author states that it is valid to define cultural groups as those whose members receive different and usually inadequate health care compared with that received by members of the majority culture. The author proposes, however, that cross-cultural efficacy is preferable to cultural competency as a goal of cross-cultural education because it implies that the caregiver is effective in interactions that involve individuals of different cultures and that neither the caregiver's nor the patient's culture offers the preferred view. She then explains why cross-cultural education needs to expand the objectives of women's health education to go beyond the traditional ones, and emphasizes that learners should be trained in the real-world situations they will face when aiding a variety of women patients.
There are several challenges involved in both cross-cultural education and women's health education (e.g., resistance to learning; fear of dealing openly with issues of discrimination; lack of teaching tools, knowledge, and time). There is also a need to assess the student's acquisition of cross-cultural efficacy at each milestone in medical education and women's health education. Components of such assessment (e.g., use of various evaluation strategies) and educational objectives and methods are outlined. The author closes with an overview of what must happen to effectively integrate cross-cultural efficacy teaching into the curriculum to produce physicians who can care effectively for all their patients, including their female patients.
Dr. Núñez is assistant professor of medicine and director, Women's Health Education Program, Institute of Women's Health, Department of Medicine, MCP Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Núñez, Women's Health Education Program, MCP Hahnemann University, 2900 Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129; telephone: (215) 991-8450; fax: (215) 843-0253; e-mail: 〈firstname.lastname@example.org〉.