Knowledge and attitudes of U.S. medical students regarding the care of Asian American patients: a cross-sectional survey study

Sharon Pang, Hursuong Vongsachang, Thomas K. Le, George Q. Zhang, Taibo Li, Jason T.C. Lee, Shari M. Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Asian Americans (AsAm) are a rapidly growing population in the U.S. With this growing population, U.S. healthcare providers must be equipped to provide culturally competent care for AsAm patients. This project surveyed U.S. medical students on their knowledge of and attitudes towards AsAm to assess predictors of readiness to care for AsAm patients. Method: This cross-sectional study surveyed medical students who had completed at least one clinical rotation. The survey was distributed online to nine medical schools throughout the U.S. The survey measured self-rated knowledge of, comfort with, cultural competency (CC) towards, and explicit biases towards AsAm patients. The first three domains were analyzed in a multivariate regression model including sociodemographic characteristics and past clinical, curricular, and social experiences with AsAm. Explicit bias questions were reported descriptively. Results: There were 688 respondents. Asian race, AsAm-prevalent hometown, AsAm-related extracurricular activities, Asian language knowledge, and having taken a population health course predicted increased AsAm knowledge. Social interactions with AsAm increased comfort with AsAm patients. Increasing year in medical school, more frequent exposure to AsAm patients on rotations, and prior travel to an Asian country were predictors of increased CC toward AsAm. Importantly, having completed a CC course was a significant predictor in all domains. In terms of explicit bias, students felt that AsAm patients were more compliant than Caucasian patients. Students also believed that Caucasian patients were generally more likely to receive self-perceived “preferred” versus “acceptable” care, but that in their own clinical experiences neither group received preferred care. Conclusion: Experience with and exposure to AsAm prior to and during medical school and CC courses may increase medical student knowledge, comfort, and CC with AsAm patients. Standardized and longitudinal CC training, increased simulations with AsAm patients, diverse student recruitment, and support for students to engage in AsAm-related activities and interact with AsAm may improve CC of future physicians towards AsAm patients and possibly other minority populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number148
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Asian/Asian American patients
  • Cultural competency
  • Cultural humility
  • Undergraduate medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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