Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Editorials

Cultural awareness: understanding yourself

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 01 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:0311394
  1. Brenda L Beagan, assistant professor in medical sociology School of Occupational Therapy1
  1. 1Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 3J5

Emphasis is increasingly placed on cultural awareness in medical education. But Brenda Beagan argues that although it is important to understand what makes other people tick, we also need to understand ourselves

Most of us do not think about our own social locations. By social location I mean where we are situated in relation to members of other social groups. We live our lives day to day, experiencing the world around us in ways that we assume are more or less the same for everybody. We do not often recognise the ways in which our experiences, our understanding of the world, are shaped by who we are.12 We are blind to the ways that social group makes a difference ' especially when we are members of dominant social groups.


Take a good look at yourself

Dominant social groups are usually in the majority. But the dominance refers to the fact that they usually have greater social,political, and economic power. Their interests tend to be better represented in media, government, education, formal religions, and law. The interests and world views of dominant groups are considered the norm and the social world is …

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