Indigenous health programs are seen as a curriculum response to addressing health disparities and social accountability. Several interrelated teaching approaches to cultural competency curricula have been recommended, however evidence of the impact of these on learner outcomes including engagement and selfreported competencies is limited. We aimed to explore undergraduate medical student perspectives of an indigenous health orientation program to inform curriculum strategies that promote learning and development of clinical skills.


We analyzed quantitative and qualitative student evaluations (n = 602) of a three-day immersed indigenous health orientation program between 2006 and 2014 based on Likert-scale responses and open-text comments. We conducted a thematic analysis of narrative student experiences (n = 426).


Overall, 509 of 551 respondents (92%) rated the indigenous health orientation program as extremely or highly valuable and most (87%) reported that the course strongly increased their interest in indigenous health. The features of the clinical course that enhanced value for learners included situated learning (learning environment; learning context); teaching qualities (enthusiasm and passion for Māori health; role-modelling); curriculum content (re-presenting Māori history; exploring Māori beliefs, values and practices; using a Māori health framework in clinical practice); teaching methodologies (multiple teaching methods; simulated patient interview); and building relationships with peers (getting to know the student cohort; developing professional working relationships).


Undergraduate medical students valued an indigenous health program delivered in an authentic indigenous environment and that explicitly reframed historical notions of indigenous health to contextualize learning.

Content relevant to clinical practice, faculty knowledge, and strengthened peer interactions combined to build learner confidence and self-reported indigenous health competencies. These findings suggest empirical evidence to support a curriculum approach to indigenous health teaching that enhances clinical learning.


Indigenous, Medical education, Cultural competency