Diversity in Patient Cases!

June 22, 2020


Diversity in Patient Cases!








Summer has arrived and it’s a great time to update your patient cases! If you think about the patient cases that you use in class, how much diversity is incorporated into them? 


We know that for medical students, addressing diversity and cultural differences is imperative to ensure future physicians can competently care for the dynamic and increasingly diverse United States population. Medical students want to learn about diversity to broaden their educational experiences during medical school. 


Another way to think about this is: “The conditions in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, intersect with culture and affect a wide range of health functioning and outcomes,” “A diverse workforce and culturally skilled clinicians and scientists are a societal need.” 


A great manuscript that I have linked in the show notes includes a checklist to guide case presentations to better reflect diversity. The checklists includes patient characteristics of race/ethnicity, sexual/gender identity, English language fluency, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, education level, and neighborhood. In this study, faculty members were asked to ensure each of their case scenarios incorporated at least two characteristics from the list and to consider these characteristics in guiding student discussions about how health disparities influence the delivery of patient-centered care.  


Diversity checklist: 


Patient’s race/ethnicity 


Sex and gender identity 


Sexual orientation 


English language fluency 


Religion; Does the religion lead to any health practices that could be considered? 


Socioeconomic status  


Disabilities (both mental and physical) 


Education level 


Immigration status (illegal, legal but with certain type of visa or green card)  


A school of pharmacy offers a diversity course to first year students. The course addresses a variety of different patient populations including: elderly, veterans, HIV positive, LGBT, end-of-life, refugee, Muslim, patients with a disability, and mental health.  


I encourage you to re-evaluate your cases and see how you can update them. We should go beyond including gender, ethnicity, or age as a specific risk factor when teaching about a condition. If you offer simulations or standardized patients, feel free to incorporate patients who are LGBTQ+, citizen status, insurance status, housing status, etc.


I am lucky enough to teach an introductory course that focuses on communication with patients. For my cases, I added patients who were nonbinary, a patient who is Cantonese, a patient with a disability, etc. It was an update that I enjoyed making to the cases and is more of a reflection of the patients who I care for in practice. There are so many ways to make your cases reflect a more diverse patient population.


We want our students to see themselves in the patient cases who we discuss as well as those who they are going to be seeing in their careers. Our course materials should be dynamic and summer is a great time to reflect and revise!


Thanks for tuning in to Two Pills Podcast! 





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