Cultural immersion

Global Outreach | Patricia Walker, M.D.

Location: Myanmar (Burma), Southeast Asia  
Mission: Reducing health disparities, specifically for globally mobile populations

Born in Taiwan and raised in Thailand until she was 11 years old, Patricia Walker, M.D., has always been immersed in many cultures. Today she’s an internationally recognized advocate for better refugee and immigrant health care and a committed ambassador for cultural humility among care providers.

With a belief that “global is local” in health care, Walker has focused on training the next generation of physicians in tropical and travel medicine. She is a professor of medicine and associate program director for the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Global Health Pathway, a three-year residency track that recently celebrated its 100th graduate, and department director at HealthPartners Travel and Tropical Medicine Center in St. Paul. She also spends up to four weeks per year abroad, teaching tropical medicine in Thailand and Cambodia.

Reducing health disparities for refugees and immigrants requires knowledge in clinical tropical and travel medicine, she says, but it also requires an open mind. Walker reflects on her work across cultures in the introduction she wrote for the book My Heart It Is Delicious: Setting the Course for Cross-Cultural Health Care by Biloine Whiting Young:

Over the years I have recognized personal core values that have helped me be clear in my purpose and passionate in my advocacy. Those core values include global health equity, respect, trustworthiness, cultural humility, and compassion. …

Ultimately, however, it is through the stories of our patients’ lives — lives that we are privileged to hold in our hands and hearts for a few moments, in an examination room or across a makeshift wooden table at a refugee camp clinic — that we may come closest to reaching across the cultural chasm to heal those who are suffering.


Web extra: More photos from Myanmar from Patricia Walker, M.D.


Published on October 24, 2016

Walker, a photographer by hobby, took this shot on a trip to initiate a collaborative agreement with colleagues in Myanmar.

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