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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Maryland Professor Partners with International Consortium to Improve Cultural Competency of European Health Professionals

Dr. Olivia Carter-Pokras, associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, is providing expertise to help improve the cultural competency skills of European medical professionals through the “Culturally Competent Teachers in Medical Education” (or C2ME) program funded by the European Commission. The C2ME initiative, which involves partners from 13 academic institutions in 11 European countries and Dr. Carter-Pokras from the U.S., sprang from a need to better prepare the medical workforce to meet the needs of the changing and diverse population due to widespread migration across Europe. By 2050, an estimated 40 million immigrants will live in the European Union, yet, to date, general medical education in Europe has only paid limited attention to the ethnic and cultural diversity of patients.

[Photo: Dr. Olivia Carter Pokras (center in white), with C2ME European collaborators]

Dr. Carter-Pokras has been a leader in the United States in developing curricula for health professional educators, including a uniform set of core cultural competency and health literacy competencies, and a primer of resources for health professional educators interested in teaching about cultural competency, health disparities or health literacy, developed in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Available here: She is contributing to the C2ME program’s efforts to develop a sustainable curriculum that integrates diversity in medical education to ensure that future care providers in Europe are equipped with adequate competencies for high-quality care provision to ethnically diverse patient populations. She will also help develop assessment tools to evaluate gaps in the curriculum, as well as an online Teach the Teacher module.

Dr. Carter-Pokras and her international collaborators met in December 2014 at the University of Leicester in the UK. Through a Delphi study, these experts established core competencies required of teachers training medical professionals to provide culturally relevant and sensitive health care. They are now in the process of identifying the training needs of health professional educators in cultural diversity, with the aim of preparing an on-line training module that will be used in both Europe and the US.

Partners in the international consortium come from the Netherlands (Dr. Jeanine Suurmond of the University of Amsterdam is the coordinator), United Kingdom, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Norway, and the United States. Their efforts are funded by the EACEA ERASMUS LifeLong Learning Program (2013-2015).