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druyProfessor Souzan Hawala-Druy
April 2011

Nursing  instructor Souzan Hawala-Druy knows why today’s teachers need to be culturally competent, i.e., capable of successfully teaching students from diverse cultures.   She not only demonstrates cultural competence when she teaches, but she teaches cultural competence.  For instance, she teaches the graduate course Cultural Diversity and Social Issues to nurse practitioners.  Moreover, with the help of a grant from the University’s Health Science Initiative to Promote Excellence in Teaching, she developed the interdisciplinary course Culturally Congruent Care for Clinical Health Professions.  Since then the course has been recommended as a possible interdisciplinary core course for Health Sciences students.

Why is cultural competence important for teachers as well as health professionals?   Given the increasingly diverse student population in the United States, teachers at all levels need to develop the cultural knowledge, awareness, and sensitivity to help diverse learners fulfill their potential and to avoid cultural misunderstandings that  can become obstacles to learning.  According to the authors of Cultural Competence: A Primer for Educators (Diller & Moule, 2005), culturally competent teachers (1) value cultural differences, (2) become aware of their own cultural assumptions and preferences, (3) realize how cultures can collide and know how to respond, (4) familiarize themselves with their students’ cultures, and (5) institutionalize cultural knowledge so that institutions can adapt more easily to diversity.  For example, a culturally competent teacher understands that an Asian student might avoid eye contact out of respect.  Likewise, a culturally competent teacher realizes that some African students might hesitate to ask questions because teachers are regarded as authority figures in their culture.   On the other hand, Hawala-Druy observes, an international teacher who was new to Howard might lack the cultural competence to discern that African American students are simply being straightforward, rather than confrontational, when addressing the teacher in class.  Without cultural competence, Hawala-Druy observes, “both sides—students and faculty—can go through cultural pain, assault, clashes, and shock.”

Since she is a culturally competent teacher, Hawala-Druy uses “culturally congruent teaching-learning strategies” when she teaches.  For example, in her course Culturally Congruent Care for Clinical Health Professions,  she supplements lectures with  a “self-heritage assessment,” journal reflections, webquests, and case studies that allow students to explore their own cultural values and beliefs as well as their clinical specialty.   She even sponsors a Diversity & Self-Awareness Club, invites diverse guest speakers, and hosts a special event to celebrate diversity.  At the same time, she incorporates online discussion and debate to accommodate students who are too shy to “speak up” in class.  In addition, she offers students the opportunity to submit a lot of “low-stakes” writing  vs. a few “high-stakes” papers if they are not accustomed to a “high-stakes” assessment system.  To investigate sensitive issues, she has also adopted an audience response system (“clickers”) or distributed 3x5 cards so that students can respond to personal questions without revealing their identity.  Finally, she helps students situate themselves in different cultural contexts via DVDs, role-playing, simulations, and a one-day community immersion experience in places such as Chinatown, an Amish community, a mosque, or a tattoo store.  As a result of her efforts, a quantitative analysis of pre-post data collected with the Transcultural Self-Efficacy Tool indicated that her students had become more culturally aware and had progressed toward cultural competence.



In addition to teaching her students to become culturally competent, Hawala-Druy helps working professionals develop such competence.   Funded by the Department of Education, she has collaborated with a community college in Maryland to use culturally appropriate strategies to increase retention of African-born nursing students.   She has improved patient satisfaction at a local hospital after conducting a survey and focus groups aimed at helping the nursing staff provide a culturally sensitive environment.  She has also worked with a county board of education to deepen the Caucasian staff’s understanding of cultural diversity after the African American student population swelled in the county’s public schools.  In addition, as a consultant for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, she has used culturally congruent strategies to educate Hispanic women about early detection of breast cancer.  

A registered nurse, instructor, and health care manager in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., Hawala-Druy has shared her cultural expertise at international and national lectures, conferences, and workshops.  Recently, she co-authored a chapter entitled “Culture Competency and Sensitivity in Human Simulation” in the forthcoming book Human Simulation for Nursing and Health Professions.  She was also just invited to give a presentation this fall at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.  Wherever she goes, she will continue to promote cultural competency, she says, because it is so important for professionals, especially for those who teach the younger generation.  “Teaching the millennials is completely different from teaching previous generations,” she explains.  “We have to show them understanding and respect for their generation and culture.”




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