Culture, Individual Differences, and Diversity
The Medical University of South Carolina and the Charleston Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center are equal opportunity employers. The major institutions that form the Charleston Consortium Internship Program have a historical commitment to equal opportunity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, physical handicap, or sexual identity or orientation. The internship leaders and faculty strongly support the value of creating and maintaining an environment that is inclusive, respectful of, and sensitive to a full range of individual and cultural differences.
Recruitment and retention of interns and staff from diverse individual backgrounds begins by endorsing the value of such diversity. Beyond the possession of the requisite professional training and skills, both institutional and internship leaders remain highly sensitive to the issue of recruiting interns, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. Background characteristics are never used as exclusionary criteria during the recruitment process; all qualified candidates are given due consideration for their respective positions.
A supportive and encouraging learning environment requires several ingredients. First, this internship program and its host institutions maintain a strong philosophical commitment to sensitivity and fairness with regard to individual and cultural differences. Interns, faculty, and support staff adhere to this important standard. Second, to the extent possible, professionals representing diverse backgrounds are among the population of interns, faculty, and support staff. Third, the development of sensitivity and skill, and regard for individual differences, are a major part of the ongoing learning process for interns. The most prevalent modes of teaching interns about diversity issues are to explicitly address them in supervision (universal) and (somewhat less frequently) to provide relevant readings. Other educational methods are to have the intern work with multicultural staff, and to work with minority patients' families or other members of their environmental milieu. Fourth, the program promotes an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect among all program participants.
Clinical assignments allow interns significant exposure to individually and culturally diverse clients. This exposure, coupled with individual and group supervision and the monthly clinical case conference, allows the interns a structured forum to develop professional and personal knowledge of, and sensitivity to, individual differences related to cultural and ethnic factors. Patient populations on rotation sites range from 2% to 80% female (median 35%), with minority representation among patients ranging from 10% to 70% (median 50%). The minority populations are almost exclusively African American, although there are a rapidly increasing number of Hispanic individuals in the Charleston area. About 10% of patients are over age 65.
An exciting component of our program is the Dr. Michael de Arellano's Community Outreach Program - Esperanza (COPE). Dr. de Arellano is a Cuban American psychologist who established the program using grant funding from the State of South Carolina Department of Public Safety. As described in the Clinical Rotations section of this brochure, the COPE program provides specialized mental health services children who have been the victims of crime, or who have experienced other traumatic events. Services are provided within the community and specifically seek to serve rural children on the sea islands surrounding the Charleston area. Many of the eligible children are Hispanic. The COPE program has been identified as exemplary by the State of South Carolina and by the US Office for Victims of Crime. We are delighted to have this program as a part of our internship; it is an excellent model for how to provide culturally competent services to an extremely underserved population.
By the end of their internship experience, interns are expected to have knowledge of cultural/ethnic issues that relate to development and presentation of disorders that affect the validity of assessment methods and the efficacy of treatment methods.