Wow Your Audience with Culturally Appropriate Presentations

You volunteered to provide a presentation on morning rounds or at the monthly quality program. You believe in Health Equity. As you prepare, you ask yourself, “how I can ensure a culturally competent presentation in front of my colleagues?” I will walk you through 4 aspects of your performance that support your cultural agility and models the behavior of skilled physicians.

Number One: DO NOT Leave this aspect of your presentation until the last minute!!

  • Unless you have a working knowledge of the social determinants of health (i.e., you obtained an MPH degree) or you pay attention to the statistics about health disparities – you may need to do a google search to augment your content.
  • More importantly, if the nature of the disparity has not impacted you, you may not be versed in the nuances of this problem even with the subject matter you are delivering.
  • Stated differently, you often don’t know what you don’t know.

Number Two: Acknowledge Health Disparities with every presentation

  • Be a Rock Star and share the health disparity statistics associated with the disease or public health issue you are discussing whenever you give a presentation.
  • When we probe deeper and examine the structural reasons that explain particular disparities- from social determinants to implicit (unconscious bias). You not only highlight the work that must be done to alleviate the gap but also remind yourself and the audience that this work is of value in your department or specialty.

Number Three: Choose Pictures Wisely

  • I cannot emphasize this enough! As the adage says, “A Picture Says a Thousand Words,” stereotypes and discrimination hide
    neatly in visual displays. We must be mindful not to perpetuate them in our presentations.
  • Ask yourself – do the photos reflect the diversity in the community I serve? Do the images mirror my colleagues who are in my audience?
  • For example, if you are showing photos of pathology, be sure to confirm the pathology across all the groups that this pathology effects. I’ve been to so many lectures about STDs among adolescents and ALL the slides, and I repeat ALL the slides, depicted genital lesions on Black female patients-this is unacceptable! And Most importantly, ask yourself, what is the underlying message that gets transmitted with a slide deck like this?

Number Four: Choose Words Carefully and Avoid Stereotypes

  • Your hidden stereotypes may perpetuate harmful beliefs in a presentation in front of your peers. There are several ways to mitigate these stereotypes.
  • Pay attention to how you feel, think, and what your body reveals when you are talking about a group of people or people afflicted with a particular disease. If you feel uncomfortable, reflect on that because it has personal meaning for you and it may be lurking in your unconscious.
  • Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Get some “objective” ideas about some of the beliefs you hold. Save your results and consider interventions to expand your cultural agility. Then, retake the test.
  • Get feedback on your presentation from colleagues who may be closer to the patient population or community involved.<
  • Be courageous and ask people how they want to be identified. As cultures, societies move forward, identification changes. Terms no longer used include Oriental and Negro. Preferred identifiers include LatinX and African American or Black. If you can be specific about the country of origin that can be helpful as well.
  • Keep in mind that no group of people are homogeneous; there will be differences in opinion and belief. Expect “mistakes,” but graciously be open to learning new and different perspectives


Stacie L. Walton MD, MPH, recently retired from Kaiser Permanente as a clinical Pediatrician serving in the roles of both Diversity Champion and Communication Consultant. She served as a medical consultant in diversity issues for healthcare providers and institutions for over 25 years.

Currently, her cultural competency themes highlight the impact of implicit bias and privilege in patient interactions and health outcomes, as well as, how effective patient-provider communication requires both competences and humility.

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