Cultural competence and communications skills are best learned in practice

LETTER — Posted Feb. 9, 2004

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Regarding "Patients say best doctors are ones who look like them" (Article, Jan. 12): I feel that your article is misleading. I agree that the language barrier is the main obstacle to good patient care. Patients' perceptions that they received better care when they visited doctors of their own race may be because of the elimination of this barrier.

"Cultural competence" and "patient-centered communication" cannot be taught in a classroom and are acquired skills that a physician develops over time by taking care of patients from various backgrounds.

As an individual who hails from India, I had to prove that I was a competent surgeon with interpersonal communication skills with my patients and colleagues. Almost all my patients were neither of my race nor religion. In 30 years of practice I never felt that any of my patients received inferior care because of their color or creed.

Sully Ahamed, MD, Mystic, Conn.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/02/09/edlt0209.htm.

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