Date of Award

Spring 6-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Monkman

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Kuzmic

Third Advisor

Dr. Darrick Tovar-Murray


The purpose of this study was to explore how life experiences, set within their social, cultural, and historical contexts, shape the development of cultural humility in physical therapists (PTs). Cultural humility involves health professionals being actively engaged in an ongoing process with patients, colleagues, communities, and themselves to make sense of the complexities of social and culture differences within relationships in practice. Given demographic trends and health care disparities, it has become critically important to better understand the dynamics of developing trusting relationships to provide quality care. This study was influenced by relationship-centered care, sociocultural, and insurgent multiculturalism theories. A qualitative, life history study was designed to answer four major research questions: (1) What types of life experiences do PTs perceive frame the way they address cultural differences and build relationships? (2) What contextual influences do PTs perceive have facilitated or constrained their development of cultural humility? (3) How do PTs’ life histories elucidate how they attend to or resist facing issues of privilege and power in relationships? (4) What are the implications that attention to one’s own culture, privileges, and biases from a life history perspective hold for health professional curricular and pedagogical choices? Eight PTs participated in this study. The primary research method used was one-on one semi-structured interviews. Data were coded and analyzed for themes through constant comparison and constructing concept maps. iv Five major themes centered on the development of cultural humility and building trusting relationships could be traced through the life histories: (1) being open-minded and listening attentively as patients tell their stories; (2) responding to a person’s emotions matters; (3) focusing care around a patient’s goals and needs; (4) teaching to engage and empower; and (5) evolving awareness of community needs and assets. Taking into account how participants used their life stories to make experiences and contextual influences meaningful, this study offers a framework for educators who are interested in using narratives to foster professional development. By virtue of ongoing reflection on practice and ones biography, including ones privilege, health professionals can be habitually engaged to action to build trusting relationships across difference.