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My Research: Medical Interactions

As a sociolinguist, my research investigates the intersection of Applied Linguistics and Narrative Medicine and the connection between clinician elicitations and patient narratives in intercultural health-care contexts.

Here are briefs on research data set:

Data set #1
Vanderbilt University Shade Tree Clinic
Medical students’ intercultural communication in an urban community clinic:
Developing professional communication

To investigate medical student-patient communication in a culturally diverse, urban setting. The focus of the study is on effective communication strategies as well as suggested areas for improvement.

I used a qualitative design including

1) video recordings of medical students interacting with patients during medical interviews,
2) audio recordings of medical students communicating with attending doctors about patient interviews, 3) video recordings of both medical students and attending doctors interacting with patients during medical interviews,
4) audio-recordings of semi-structured interviews with patients, and
5) audio-recordings of semi-structured interviews with medical students.

There were 34 recordings among 32 participants: 16 medical students, 8 patients, and 8 attending doctors. These interactions were transcribed and data were analysed thematically.

The findings suggest that medical students seem to understand when professional communication between attending doctors and themselves is differentiated from communication with patients. However, although medical students have some strategies to manage communication and cultural differences, they are not consistently aware of when miscommunication might be taking place even when speaking to individuals from similar cultural backgrounds. A specific example, “moderation”, is used in the case study interaction presented in this paper, where both patient and medical students were assumed to have the same understanding of the term since they are from the same macro culture and use English as their first and primary language. The transcription data demonstrate otherwise.

Although there are some areas related to developing professional communication where medical students are more adept, there is little awareness of when medical students and patients are misaligned in their use of certain non-medical terminology.

The findings help identify the need for developing a framework for more effective communication strategies for clarifying commonly used, non-medical terms.

Project #2

Using this data set, my Scholar-in-Residence Project was informed by the Vanderbilt University-University of Melbourne partnership with Robyn Woodward-Kron (Melbourne) where we explored the extent to which culture-specific interpretations of intercultural phenomena might be linguistically marked and generalizable across cultures. The purpose of this study is to (1) investigate clinicians’ linguistic and intercultural communicative competence in two ethnically and culturally diverse settings and (2) identify linguistic markers and strategies for constructing professional identities (Dyer & Keller-Cohen, 2000).