California faces critical shortage of Latino physicians

California flag and American flag

California faces a critical shortage of Latino physicians, leaving the growing Latino community underserved, according to the Latino Physicians of California (LPOC).

The lack of Latino physicians, coupled with a growing Latino population, are bad news for the local community, Jose Alberto Arevalo, M.D., board chair of the LPOC, told the Victorville Daily Press. With a wide disparity between the 39 percent of Latino physicians in California planning to retire in the next 10 years versus the 9 percent admission rate for Latino medical students, he sees a problem that the state urgently needs to address.

Diversity among healthcare providers has been linked to improved healthcare for diverse patient populations, largely through stronger doctor-patient relationships built on common cultural backgrounds, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported.

Silvia Diego, treasurer and chair of the Credentialing Committee for the California Medical Board indicates that, similar to findings among African-American and Hispanic populations, Latino healthcare workers are better able to serve the Latino community because they share the same language and culture. He told reporters during a conference call that Latino patients tend to seek out Latino physicians, so a lack of diversity among providers creates an environment in which these patients are medically underserved.

The LPOC advocates a multifaceted approach to solving the problem, including the establishment of medical schools located closer to low-income and underserved areas. This would make it easier for Latinos to attend such schools, and would place them closer to the communities most in need of their service.

Systemic barriers may be a bigger worry, however. State Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, of Fresno, points to the low acceptance rate for Latino medical students compared to state demographics as symptomatic of a broader issue in need of attention. “There needs to be a concerted effort where we create a support system in schools, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other medical facilities,” he says.