Promoting cultural competence

A new student initiative will help future health care professionals serve a variety of patients.

When asked by prospective students what it is about DMU that should impress them, I always bring up the quality of the students. It’s not just that we are more diverse than we might seem at first glance, with surprising talents and interests and personal histories. The biggest difference between DMU students and my undergraduate colleagues is how genuinely giving we are. We are going to spend our lives helping people, it’s true. And a substantial fraction of us intends to work with underserved populations.

A new student initiative will contribute to our preparation to serve diverse populations, including in underserved areas. The Dean’s Cultural Awareness Endorsement will offer educational opportunities open to all students and the public. DMU students who attend a certain number of events will receive a cultural awareness endorsement in their dean’s letter.

We launched the program with our first event on April 25, where Dawn Bowker, assistant professor at Mercy College of Health Sciences, presented on the topic of health disparities in the Native American population and how health care professionals can effectively reduce them. Approximately 90 people attended the event. In addition to students and faculty from DMU’s three colleges, students from Mercy College of Health Sciences and Grand View University attended the event.

Tuesday evening, students met again at the Islamic Center of Des Moines for a presentation by Dr. Tariq Mallick on the influence of religion on the health care of Muslim patients. The program continued the following morning with a forum on health care for LGBTQQIA communities.

Student feedback has been enormously positive. Angela Knoblauch, D.O.’14, writes, “Thank you so much for your work in getting this whole series going – I think it is extremely beneficial and am looking forward to future sessions.” We have also had strong support from the Student National Podiatric Medical Association (SNPMA). Kaitlyn Laube, D.P.M.’15, demonstrates interest among podiatric medical students: “The discussion this morning was fantastic. I’m already looking forward to the next event. I think that what you guys are doing for our university is awesome and absolutely necessary if we are to become health care providers that provide excellent care in a compassionate and sensitive matter to ALL of our future patients.”

Upcoming topics include major health issues of African Americans and optimal health care for returning veterans.

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