Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

A patient’s reflection on connecting with clinicians—what matters most 


Empathy and cultural competence are cornerstones of excellent patient care. Prioritizing these values can help each patient feel respected, empowered, and supported. 

As a young woman navigating the aftermath of a traumatic experience, I found solace in the comforting presence of an empathetic female physician. This encounter began my healing journey and fueled a passion for advocating for representation in healthcare.


In the vulnerable moments following a sexual assault, I found myself in a doctors’s office who would forever change my perception of the profession. Her gentle demeanor and unwavering support created a safe space where I could openly share my experience without fear of judgment or stigma. “I’m here for you,” she assured me—a beacon of hope in the darkness.


Reflecting on this moment, I realized the profound effect of representation in medicine. As a woman, her ability to validate my feelings without hesitation bridged the patient-physician divide, transforming what could have been a daunting ordeal into a meaningful junction. Through her example, I learned that representation goes beyond “diversity hires.” It’s about nurturing genuine connections patients and clinicians. Today, as I advocate for health equity, I carry with me the lessons learned from that encounter.


As I considered the value of an experience like this in patient care, I wanted to talk to healthcare professionals who represented the diverse identities of their patients, so I reached out. I wanted to discover firsthand how representation among clinicians can make patients feel heard. Dr. Puja Uppal, a family physician and woman of color, believes care encompasses cultural nuances, socioeconomic factors, and individual identities. “Navigating the intersectionality of race, gender, and socioeconomic factors,” she says, “requires providing holistic, patient-centered care.”


Dr. Malasri Chaudhery-Malgeri agrees, sharing her insights on individualized mental healthcare. She and a diverse group of colleagues fight stigma, creating tailored care plans including anything from physical health and nutrition to artistic endeavors and relationship-building. Taking an integrative and collaborative approach to healing and recovery,” she says, “contributes to improved overall quality of life through holistic care, addressing mental, physical, and social health.”


I also contacted Raquel Hammonds, NMD—she’s partnered with local LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to promote individualized care, LGBTQ+ identity education, and antidiscriminatory spaces. “As a result,” she says, “we saw significant improvements in health outcomes among LGBTQ+ communities with increased rates of preventive screenings and higher patient satisfaction.”


Dr. Jennie Ding, a first-generation Chinese Canadian family physician, treats patients in remote Indigenous communities. She honors their cultural identity and enhances engagement by collaborating with community healers and integrating spiritual healing sessions. “Patients feel respected,” she adds, “resulting in higher satisfaction with healthcare services.” Dr Ding also works in private practice, where she navigates language barriers by engaging Mandarin-speaking patients. “Learning key medical terms in Mandarin,” she says, “helps patients feel more comfortable and understood.”



Here’s what I suggest healthcare professionals do to foster meaningful relationships with patients:


1. Listen with empathy.

Take time to listen to patients’ stories with compassion and empathy, validating their experiences and emotions.


2. Stay informed.

Stay current on cultural competence and diversity to better serve all patient populations.


3. Cultivate cultural humility.

Approach patient interactions with humility and a willingness to learn from diverse perspectives, recognizing that you may not always have all the answers.


4. Advocate for representation.

Advocate for increased gender, racial, and cultural diversity in healthcare leadership and decision-making.


5. Create safe spaces.

Inclusive spaces where patients feel comfortable expressing themselves without judgment and discrimination allow conversations with clinicians to be more open and honest.


Healthcare professionals who show empathy, nurture connections with patients, and promote representation in healthcare will help every patient feel valued, respected, and understood.










This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.