Incorporating cultural competence to provide quality health care to all

Nov 20, 2017, 11:15 AM by Shannon Porter
Left to right: Dr. Danny Jacobs, James Akers, Cecilia Garcia-Akers, Stephanie Tutak, Dr. David Callender
Stephanie Tutak is inspired by Dr. Hector P. Garcia’s story, his commitment to service and his role in improving access to health care.

So when the fourth-year medical student was named the winner of the 2017 Hector P. Garcia, M.D. Cultural Competence Award during the annual luncheon Oct. 6 on the Galveston Campus, she felt honored to play a part in carrying out his legacy.

The program, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Hispanic Center of Excellence under the direction of Dr. Norma Perez, recognizes a student who “demonstrates commitments to providing quality health care to all by incorporating cultural competence in his or her service to others.”

The award is named in honor of Dr. Garcia, who graduated from the UTMB School of Medicine in 1940 and became well-known throughout Texas and the U.S. as a trailblazer in the fight for civil rights for Mexican-Americans in Texas.

Like Garcia, Tutak has an interest in health disparities, which first piqued during her studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She enrolled in a course on health inequity after an experience on a medical mission in Honduras, which drove her to question the ethics of her involvement in providing transient medical care to a Spanish-speaking patient population with a culture and language different from her own.  

“I believe medicine is a social responsibility and I try to advocate for my patients as much as possible during my clerkships in medical school,” Tutak said.

Tutak’s essay shared her own personal reflection of one patient who had been diagnosed with HIV and went on to face a lack of cultural competency throughout her treatment. Tutak analyzed patient dissatisfaction throughout her treatment, examining how greater sensitivity to the patient’s culture could have improved her experience and her care.

To read Tutak's winning essay, click here

First-year medical student Florentino Saenz was presented with the winning award for his poster highlighting his work in the Rio Grande Valley. His project focused on reducing stress levels and looked at the effects of yoga and other body management techniques on the levels of cortisol in his study’s participants.

The luncheon, attended by members of Garcia’s family, also featured a keynote speech by his daughter, Cecilia Garcia Akers. Akers is the founding member of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation and serves as its board president and chair.