Sharnjit Grewal, MD, a hospitalist at Mercy Medical Group in Sacramento, Calif., is familiar with what he calls “the double-take.” A Sikh born and raised in California, Dr. Grewal wears a traditional turban and full beard. When he walks into the room, some patient’s simply don’t know what to make of him, he admits.
“It’s confusing—even to my Hindu and Sikh patients,” Dr. Grewal says. “They sometimes say, ‘You talk like an American, you’re obviously from the West, but you follow a faith from the East. The line between religion and culture is obscured.”
Although the medical community stresses cultural awareness and sensitivity, Dr. Grewal’s experience highlights the fine line between religion and culture, and the barriers standing stand in the way of cultural awareness.
Today, hospitals experience shifting patient demographics and a growing number of languages and dialects observed in the United States today. Between 1990-2000, the foreign-born population in the U.S. increased by 57%, compared with a 9.3% increase for the native population and a 13% increase for the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.