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An Indigenous cultural competence model for dentistry education


Reorientation of education for health professionals is necessary to support future health workforce in meeting population needs. Dental graduates must be competent to effectively communicate with patients, their families and other health professionals involved in their care, regardless of social or cultural background. Indigenous people in Australia experience significant oral health disparities compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Cultural competence has evolved as the leading model to equip future clinicians to deliver culturally safe care. A case study conducted at the University of Sydney School of Dentistry examined the integration of Indigenous cultural competence into dental curricula using four data sources: a systematic review identifying intervention strategies to improve cultural competence; an online survey to provide a baseline analysis of Indigenous curricula practices; and two in-depth interview studies with academics and students to determine barriers and enablers to increasing Indigenous cultural competence among dental students. As a result, an Indigenous cultural model was developed for dentistry education, recognising three major constituents being critical to achieving cultural competence among dental students. Indigenous cultural competence in dentistry education requires stringent governance, adequate faculty resources and effective educational strategies, in order to increase students' knowledge, understanding and skills to achieve a minimum cultural competence standard upon graduation.

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We thank members of the Cultural Competence Curriculum Review Reference Group, for their invaluable advice and support: Linda Lewis - Aboriginal Otitis Media Coordinator, Western Sydney Local Health District; Boe Rambaldini - Aboriginal Oral Health Coordinator, NSW Centre Oral Health Strategy; Jacinda Stamenkovic - Aboriginal Graduate of the Bachelor Oral Health and current Clinical Educator in the Bachelor Oral Health and Doctor of Dental Medicine programs; Dr Nigel Rock - Doctor of Dental Medicine Clinical Educator, The University of Sydney; and Prof Heiko Spallek - Head of School and Dean, The University of Sydney School of Dentistry. Furthermore, we thank Bettina Fulham, Research Support Administrative Assistant, for her dedicated work, Sasha Cohen, for his graphic design expertise in the development of this model, and our academic colleagues who generously responded to our request to be interviewed.

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Correspondence to Cathryn Forsyth.

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Forsyth, C., Short, S., Gilroy, J. et al. An Indigenous cultural competence model for dentistry education. Br Dent J 228, 719–725 (2020).

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