Objectives: This study explored motivation dynamics of medical students engaging with traditional medicine in Colombia. Methods: We conducted a qualitative descriptive study as part of a larger participatory research effort to develop a medical education curriculum on cultural safety. Four final-year medical students participated in a five-month program to strengthen knowledge of traditional medicinal plants with schoolchildren in Cota, a municipality outside Bogota with a high proportion of traditional medicine users. Students and schoolteachers co-designed the program aimed to promote the involvement of school children with traditional medicine in their community. The medical students shared written narratives describing what facilitated their work and discussed experiences in a group session. Inductive thematic analysis of the narratives and discussion derived categories of motivation to learn about traditional medicine. Results: Five key learning dynamics emerged from the analysis: (1) learning from/with communities as opposed to training them; (2) ownership of medical education as a result of co-designing the exercise; (3) rigorous academic contents of the program; (4) lack of cultural safety training in university; and (5) previous contacts with traditional knowledge. Conclusions: We identified potential principles for engaged cultural safety training for medical students. We will use these in our larger training program. Our results may be relevant to other researchers and medical educators wanting to improve the interaction of medical health professionals in multicultural settings with people and communities who use traditional medicine. We expect these professionals will be better prepared to recognize and address intercultural challenges in their clinical practice.
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