The influence of culture on learning of psychiatry: the case of Asian-Indian international medical graduates

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Abstract

Culture is ubiquitous and fundamental to the practice and learning of psychiatry. Its influence on psychiatric residency training assumes greater significance in the context of the current workforce dynamics in psychiatry, where 40% of residents are foreign-born, with a preponderance of them emigrating from Asian cultures. Using the Asian-Indian international medical graduate (IMG) as an example, the educational challenges faced by IMGs in learning psychiatry are reviewed. These difficulties are traced to the significant psychological impact of migration on IMGs, IMGs' cultural conflicts in using English as a second language, and to the differing attitudes towards mental illness in Eastern and Western cultures. To further delineate the Asian-Indian IMGs cultural hurdles in learning psychiatry, the impact of the Hindu world view on their individual psychologies and their interpersonal relationships is discussed. It is argued that the instructors involved in training IMGs must be conversant with these core-cultural differences of their trainees in order to better discharge their roles as teachers. An example from a psychotherapy training session of a resident is offered to highlight the issues raised in this paper. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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