Jelena Todic, Barnes-Jewish
manager of education, quality and
research (center), and graduate students
Cheryl Winter (left) and Joyce West.
The Barnes-Jewish Center for Diversity and Cultural
Competence was established in 2006, with the goal of
creating an inclusive health care environment for all and
reducing health disparities in the St. Louis community.
The center is also helping to educate the community to
understand the significance of cultural competence and
the impact it can have on health outcomes.
Jelena Todic, Barnes-Jewish Hospital manager of education,
quality and research, is a field instructor for the collaborative
practicum placement between the University of Missouri-
St. Louis, St. Louis University and Washington University
Brown School of Social Work. Each year, the hospital
offers a practicum for up to two graduate social work and
public health students. The practicum students learn
about health literacy, cultural competence and strategies
for creating an equitable health care organization.
“Being culturally competent health care providers means
that we are able to provide positive outcomes for all of
our patients regardless of their backgrounds and levels
of health literacy. Training social work and public health
professionals is one way of ensuring that others have skills
and knowledge needed to work toward health equity for
all communities,” says Todic.
Joyce West and Cheryl Winter, graduate students from
St. Louis University and Washington University Brown
School of Social Work respectively, were practicum
students at the hospital in 2011. West is working on
her master’s in social work, and Winter is pursing
a dual master’s in social work and public health.
“I thought that as a member of a minority, as an African-
American woman, I was automatically culturally competent.
That was not the case,” says West. “During the two
semesters that I trained with the center, I became aware
of my own biases, which may not have been negative
but caused an uneasiness that I didn’t recognize. Now,
I feel that I can accept the differences in others and truly
respect and appreciate them.”
West is a national trainer with Parents As Teachers.
She serves 11 tribal schools across the country. Locally,
she is working to reduce the infant mortality rate in
St. Louis, which is one of the highest in the country.
“With my new knowledge and skills, I feel I can impact
these numbers in a positive way,” says West.
Winter, a fellow at the Missouri Foundation for Health,
spent three weeks with Todic last summer. She helped
draft the curriculum manual for cultural competence,
an 18-hour course currently offered at Barnes-Jewish
Hospital that could be implemented at other hospitals.
“Even though it was short, it was the best practicum
I’ve ever had because it helped me develop professionally
and it was also helpful to the hospital,” says Winter.
Since joining Barnes-Jewish in 2009, Todic has trained
five students usually for a minimum of one semester. “It’s
wonderful to see the program extend beyond the hospital
because there are many applications in which cultural
competency can improve the health of our communities,”