The lack of Latino doctors in the United States has become a pressing issue in the medical profession. Despite Latinos making up 19% of the population, only about 7% of physicians in the country are Latino. This disparity has led to significant healthcare barriers, inequalities, and poorer outcomes for Latino patients. In an effort to address this issue, National Latino Physician Day was established on October 1 to raise awareness and advocate for systematic changes that will increase the representation of Latino physicians in the workforce.
Dr. Michael Galvez, a pediatric hand surgeon in California, spearheaded a national campaign last year to highlight the obstacles faced by Latino and Latina doctors. His goal is to inspire the next generation of Latinos to pursue careers in medicine. Dr. Galvez emphasizes the importance of having diversity among plastic surgeons, as they should reflect the diverse patient population they serve. In states like California, where there is a high percentage of Latinos, Asians, and Blacks, it is crucial to include all aspects of this diversity to ensure comprehensive and effective healthcare. Additionally, research has shown that patient-physician concordance, where patients and physicians share the same ethnicity, leads to improved outcomes, better communication, and higher patient satisfaction.
One of the advantages of having Latino doctors is their ability to bridge cultural and language barriers that often exist when serving certain patients. Being able to speak Spanish, in particular, is seen as a superpower for physicians as it allows them to effectively communicate important health information without anything being lost in translation. Dr. Galvez emphasizes that being a physician is not just about performing surgeries; it is also about building connections, educating patients, and ensuring their understanding of post-surgical care and potential risks.
In the field of plastic surgery, the lack of Latino physicians poses a challenge for aspiring doctors who are in search of role models and mentors. Dr. Galvez encourages Latino medical students to seek guidance beyond their immediate division or department, finding someone who understands their background, values, and culture. Having support and mentorship is crucial in preventing burnout and increasing the likelihood of success, as minority students often face higher attrition rates. Dr. Galvez believes that systemic changes must be made to provide the necessary support for these students to thrive in their medical careers.
Dr. Galvez’s personal background has played a significant role in his understanding of the challenges faced by Latino communities in accessing medical care. Growing up uninsured with immigrant parents from Peru, he witnessed firsthand the disparities in healthcare. His grandfather, a pediatric surgeon in Peru, was unable to practice in the U.S., but he instilled in Dr. Galvez a passion for medicine and the importance of providing care to all patients, regardless of their background. Dr. Galvez’s cultural experiences and ability to speak Spanish have allowed him to connect with patients from diverse backgrounds, treating them as family and ensuring the best possible care.
Dr. Galvez calls upon current plastic surgeons to contribute to breaking down barriers for Latino medical students. He urges them to dedicate time throughout the year to mentor underserved students, including Latinos, in order to provide the necessary support and guidance for success in the complex and competitive field of plastic surgery. By taking collective action, the medical community can work towards a more inclusive and representative workforce that will ultimately lead to better healthcare outcomes for all patients.