How a diverse physician corps can better serve patients

In an attempt to nurture a generation of doctors as culturally diverse as the population they serve, the California Academy of Family Physicians is working to attract more ethnic minorities and low-income youth to their profession, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The organization's Future Faces of Family Medicine program isn't the only California program designed to diversify the medical field. The newspaper also highlighted the United Health Foundation's Diverse Scholars Initiative, which this year awarded healthcare scholarships to Nancy Rivera, who wants to serve the Latino population in the state's Central Valley, and Tria Vue, whose Hmong parents struggled to understand Western medicine.

Doctors from communities like the Central Valley "are most likely to return to them to serve," Michael Rodriguez, M.D., a family physician and professor in UCLA's Department of Family Medicine, told the Bee. "And they have the patients' perspectives, the patients' values in mind."

In the article, Vue describes how her father's belief in the healing power of a shaman left him untrusting of Western medicine. He also was confused by the doctor's orders to avoid red meat, without an explanation as to why.

As a future healthcare professional Vue sees herself as being a bridge, or mediator, between the two cultures, the Bee reported.

Growing a culturally diverse generation of physicians will take some time. In the meantime, hospitals can refer to a new guide to become a "culturally competent" hospital able to tailor delivery of healthcare to meet patients' social, cultural and linguistic needs, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The guide was released last month by the Equity of Care initiative and the American Hospital Association's Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence program.

For more information:
- read the Bee article
- download the cultural competence guide (.pdf)