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Sep 26, 2014

Diversity & Health Conference - Avoiding Cultural Malpractice and Promoting Quality Care

What is cultural malpractice? And how do we achieve its opposite, cultural competence, and promote the highest quality care? Those were the primary questions that were discussed at the recent Diversity & Health conference organized by William Osler Heatlh System, in partnership with Carranza LLP and Neuro-Rehab Services Inc. 

Today's medical and rehabilitation practices are not just about treatment but also include the patient’s beliefs, culture, religion, race, ethnicity, age, gender, language, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. At this conference, participants discussed how this is changing the ways in which we provide care and assistance to people and a few ways in which we can ensure we take a person's culture into account, such as the importance of perspective, the importance of questioning all assumptions and the benefits of investing in interpretive services.

The conference focused on the aim of being culturally competent, which was defined as: a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together to enable a system, organization or professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations (Cross, 1998).

The presentations, by doctors and others focused on diversity and ethics in the healthcare sector, focused on how we can help one another to help our patients and clients. The keynote speaker, Dr  Joseph Betancourt, is the Director of Multicultural Education for Massachusetts General Hospital and is an expert in cross-cultural care and communication. He spoke about the global perspective and benefitting from our diversity. 

Juan Carranza's presentation, Cultural Competency - let’s get our clients through the legal system!, captivated everyone’s attention by incorporating a bit of humor and it received a lot of positive feedback. Juan spoke about how important cultural competence is in his legal practice. He gave a useful presentation about the pitfalls that come with NOT being culturally competent, such as patients not being able to fully participate in their care to the worst case scenario of patients being misdiagnosed and mistreated - and gave tips on how to be culturally competent. Some of these include:

  • Be aware of your own culture
  • Attempt to be aware of other’s culture/social characteristics
  • Avoid stereotyping
  • Use culturally sensitive interpreters
  • Question assumptions
  • Use a multi-disciplinary team approach
  • When possible use professionals who are a cultural “match”.

Juan with the other speakers at the conference

Approximately 130 people attended the conference from diverse health care backgrounds. From personal, heart felt stories to concrete data, there was a lot of information to digest. Overall, the conference was very informative and it was empowering to hear about the great work that has been accomplished by the diverse health care organizations. Of course there is still a lot more work to be done in order to improve our cultural competence, and this conference was a step in the right direction.

The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.

-Dr. William Osler

 The measure of a country’s greatness should be based on how well it cares for its most vulnerable populations.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Carranza LLP team members at the conference


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