Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be pathologised in medical curriculum, leaving graduates feeling unequipped to effectively work cross-culturally. These factors create barriers to culturally safe health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In this pilot pre-post study, we followed the learning experiences of 7 medical students and 4 medical registrars undertaking clinical placements at an urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care service in 2014. Through analysis and comparison of pre- and post-placement responses to a paper-based case study of a fictitious Aboriginal patient, we identified four learning principles for medical professionalism: student exposure to nuanced, complex and positive representations of Aboriginal peoples; positive practitioner role modelling; interpersonal skills that build trust and minimise patient-practitioner relational power imbalances; and, knowledge, understanding and skills for providing patient centred, holistic care. Though not exhaustive, these principles can increase the capacity of practitioners to foster culturally safe and optimal health care for Aboriginal peoples. Furthermore, competence and effectiveness in Aboriginal health contexts is an essential component of medical professionalism.


Aboriginal health, professionalism, medical education, practitioner bias

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