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Reprogenetics, reproductive risks and cultural awareness: what may we learn from Israeli and Croatian medical students?

  • Bentwich, Miriam Ethel1
  • Mashiach-Eizenberg, Michal2
  • Borovečki, Ana3
  • Simonstein, Frida2
  • 1 Bar-Ilan University, Safed Campus, Safed, Israel , Safed (Israel)
  • 2 Yezreel Valley Academic College, Afula, Israel , Afula (Israel)
  • 3 University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia , Zagreb (Croatia)
Published Article
BMC Medical Ethics
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Nov 27, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s12910-019-0427-1
Springer Nature


BackgroundPast studies emphasized the possible cultural influence on attitudes regarding reprogenetics and reproductive risks among medical students who are taken to be “future physicians.” These studies were crafted in order to enhance the knowledge and expand the boundaries of cultural competence. Yet such studies were focused on MS from relatively marginalized cultures, namely either from non-Western developing countries or minority groups in developed countries. The current study sheds light on possible cultural influences of the dominant culture on medical students in two developed countries, potentially with different dominant cultures regarding reprogenetics and reproductive risks: Israel and Croatia.MethodsQuantitative-statistical analyses were employed, based on anonymous questionnaires completed by 150 first year medical students in Israel and Croatia. The questionnaires pertained to the knowledge and attitudes regarding genetics, reproduction and reproductive risks. These questionnaires were completed before the students were engaged in learning about these topics as part of the curriculum in their medical school.ResultsSubstantial differences were revealed between the two groups of medical students. Israeli medical students were less tolerant regarding reproductive risks and more knowledgeable about genetics and reproductive risks than Croatian medical students. For example, while nearly all Israeli medical students (96%) disagreed with the idea that “Screening for reproductive risks in prospective parents is wrong,” less than 40% of their Croatian counterparts shared a similar stance. Similarly, all (100%) Israeli medical students correctly observed that “A carrier of a recessive genetic disease actually has the disease” was wrong, as opposed to only 82% of Croatian students.ConclusionsBy linking applicable theoretical literature to these findings, we suggest that they may reflect the hidden influence of the dominant culture in each country, disguised as part of the “culture of medicine.” Acknowledging and learning about such influence of the dominant culture, may be an important addition to the training of medical students in cultural competence, and specifically their cultural awareness. Such an acknowledgement may also pave the road to drawing the attention of existing physicians regarding a less known yet an important aspect of their cultural competence, insofar as the cultural awareness component is concerned.

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