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Caring for Individuals from Different Backgrounds

LOCATION: WVU School of Medicine, WVU School of Dentistry, Health Right Clinic, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities and Louis Johnson Veterans Affaris Medical Center
PRECEPTOR: Linda S. Nield, MD and Sheila S. Price, DDS, EdD, MA
DURATION: 2 weeks minimum
OFFERED: Continuously
STATUS: Elective 


Fourth Year Medical Students and Dental Students will have the opportunity to care for patients with varied backgrounds to enhance competency in patient care, interpersonal and communication skills and professionalism. Students will create their personalized calendar for a 2 or 4 week block in which they will interact with and be taught by specialists in the fields of immigrant health, military medicine, obesity, sexual/gender minority patient care, and disabilities. Students will also care for patients who are economically disadvantaged. The goal of this inter-professional elective is to increase students’ appreciation of and knowledge about diversity, inclusion and health care disparities; and to increase students’ skills in caring for patients from diverse backgrounds.

Patient Care:

  1. Demonstrate competence in caring for patients from diverse backgrounds.
  2. Describe how culture contributes to health practices and outcomes, with particular emphasis on patients in Appalachia.
  3. Identify health disparities affecting various populations.

Medical Knowledge:

After completing this elective, students will be able to demonstrate competence in basic and clinical knowledge as it pertains to medical issues that may be more prevalent in specialized populations.

Practice-Based Learning:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to use peer-reviewed literature to effectively and cogently evaluate patient care practices and modify management plans appropriately based on the information. Students are expected to demonstrate receptiveness to feedback provided during the rotation with appropriate modification of behavior to improve performance.
  2. Identify potential biases that may surface after completing the Implicit Association Tests (IAT) at the start of the rotation, and self-reflect on the results and consider strategies to address the results, as guided by their faculty mentor.


  1. Demonstrate effective communication skills with patients and families from different backgrounds and with course directors, colleagues and other dental and medical professionals.
  2. Identify the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (The National CLAS Standards) Available at: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=53


Students will demonstrate a commitment to patient care and learning by timeliness, responsibility for patients and sensitivity to diversity, inclusion and equitable care. In particular, students will become more aware of their own explicit and implicit biases by completing the IAT at the following link: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.

Additionally, this elective will promote students to integrate WVU’s values of service, curiosity, respect, accountability and appreciation into their culturally competent patient care.

Systems-Based Practice:

Demonstrate an awareness of and responsiveness to the larger context and system of health care and the ability to effectively call on system resources to provide optimal care for all patients.


  1. The elective director will provide information about the available experiences, and students will create their personal schedules for the elective. Students are expected to participate in elective-related experiences on Mondays through Fridays, from 8am until 5pm, for the entire elective. Learning opportunities may be available on the weekends and/or in evenings, and students will be encouraged to participate in those opportunities also.
  2. Students are expected to read the list of assigned resources, which will include landmark publications like Smedley BD, Stith AY, Nelson AR, eds. Unequal treatment: Confronting racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002. Discussions about the assigned reading will occur with the main elective director.
  3. Students will receive instruction about IATs, complete IATs and keep a journal of lessons learned.
  4. Students attend weekly meetings with the preceptor to discuss IAT results, discuss strategies to reduce implicit bias, and debrief about lessons learned from patients and the assigned resources.


During each clinical session, students will provide their attending with an evaluation card, which is modeled after the cards used in the WVU SOM MS3 Pediatrics Clerkship. The cards allow the attending to rate the student, as applicable, in the competencies of patient care, medical knowledge, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, practice-based learning and improvement and systems based practice. The attendings will be provided with pre-addressed campus envelopes to return the cards to the preceptor. The preceptor will meet with the student once per week to discuss clinical encounters, journal entries and other assignments including but not limited to required readings, videos, workshops and implicit association tests

The preceptor will complete the fourth year elective evaluation generated from E-valu by compiling the results of the evaluation cards and considering the quality of the performance on the assignments.


Dental and/or medical students will contact their respective elective director at least one month prior to the start of the elective to set up a time to meet and plan the students schedule for the elective.