Monday, March 27th, 2017

Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Faradia Kernizan

After I graduated from college, I was unsure whether I wanted to be a physician. I worked as a Baltimore City educator for three years where I learned and saw first-hand how access to healthcare and nutrition affects low-income citizens, even in childhood. Seeing this daily made me realize how passionate I am about medicine and resulted in me pursuing positions in healthcare. For the last year, I have been a research coordinator and recruitment specialist at the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine. I’ve met many different people who are trying to navigate living their lives while having Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I’ve learned so much taking on this research position.

One day at work, I was recruiting a young African-American male with Crohn’s Disease for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) study I work on after he had a serious flare at the hospital. I noticed that he was younger than I am, a teenager. As I asked him a few questions about his disease, he informed me that dealing with his Crohn’s Disease has been a struggle since he was about nine years old. He had been misdiagnosed many times as a child, and as a result, none of the treatments many physicians recommended had worked. After he was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, he learned the hard way that he would have to change his diet and eat less of the cultural foods he grew up eating, and instead eat foods that were not culturally familiar to him. His mother also told me how difficult it was for her. Because she did not know anyone who had Crohn’s Disease, she did not know what to do, or who she could ask questions to. She explained how stressful it was to understand and try to get answers about her son’s condition. Sometimes she felt like the physicians were inaccessible because their schedules were so busy. This struck a chord for me, as some of my family members have had experiences like this in the past.

The patient asked me what drew me to IBD research, so I spoke to him about how I really enjoy doing research projects involving health disparities.  I told him how important it is to learn about disparities in healthcare to make sure that everyone in American has equal access to quality healthcare and a fulfilling life.

Conversations and interactions like the one I had with this patient and his mother solidify my reasons for wanting to become a doctor. I want to work to combat health disparities by giving patient care directly and having autonomy over diagnosing the patient’s disease. It’s important to me that I diagnose my future patients while understanding the patient’s cultural background. Being a culturally competent doctor whose patients are comfortable approaching me at any time with any questions is very important to me. I want to be aware of different traditions and customs, and provide culturally competent care, so we can be one step closer to ensuring that all Americans have positive health outcomes, no matter the race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

About Faradia Kernizan

Faradia Kernizan is a first generation Haitian-American from Queens, NY. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2012, and majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.  In her free time, Faradia likes to run, volunteer, bake, watch movies, and hang out with friends.

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