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Improving health care quality through culturally competent physicians: leadership and organizational diversity training

Authors Irwin B Horwitz, Marilyn Sonilal, Sujin K Horwitz

Published 15 February 2011 Volume 2011:3 Pages 29—40

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JHL.S15620

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Irwin B Horwitz1, Marilyn Sonilal2, Sujin K Horwitz3
1Cameron School of Business, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX, USA; 2School of Public Health, University of Texas, Houston, TX, USA

Abstract: The growing diversity of the population has resulted in substantial challenges for the US health care system. A substantial body of evidence has identified significant disparities in health care among culturally and ethnically diverse patients, irrespective of income, that negatively affects such factors as diagnostic precision, quality of care, adherence to healing protocols, and overall treatment outcomes. Diversity has also been shown to compromise the functionality of health care teams that are increasingly comprised of members with culturally different backgrounds, in which diversity produces misunderstanding and conflict. Many of the problems stem from a lack of cultural competence among both physicians and teams under their supervision. To reduce the numerous problems resulting from inadequate cultural competence among health care professionals, this article examines ways in which the issues of diversity can be effectively addressed in health care institutions. It is advocated that physicians adopt a proactive transformational leadership style to manage diversity because of its emphasis on understanding and aligning follower values which lie at the heart of diversity-related misunderstandings. It is also held that for leadership training among physicians to be fully effective, it should be integrated with organizational-wide diversity programs. By doing so, the complimentary effect could result in comprehensive change, resulting in substantial improvements in the quality of health care for all patients.

Keywords: leadership, diversity, health care, disparities, medical education

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