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Cultural Awareness at UMass Memorial

We believe that having the proper appreciation of culture and the ability to assess its impact is critical to providing quality care to all of our patients. This awareness is particularly important since it is not always possible to master all details associated with every culture represented in our culturally diverse patient population.

We define culture as the learned and shared knowledge, beliefs and rules that people use to interpret, experience and to generate social behavior. There are universal considerations that may be influenced by a patient's cultural orientation. Some dimensions where we can engage and better understand our patients include:


  • Issues related to our ability to understand and be understood when the patient and the provider do not speak the same language; also nonverbal cues and printed materials.

Role of Family

  • Questions related to decision-making responsibilities, the definition of immediate family member, the sharing of information and visitation expectations.

Religion and/or Spirituality

  • Understanding the patient's beliefs and how he/she views his/her condition and treatment.

Food Practices

  • Beliefs that prescribe a specific diet and/or the intake of certain foods at different times, not necessarily due to a dislike or taste.