The shortage of Latino doctors in the United States is a pressing issue that is negatively impacting healthcare outcomes for Latino patients. Despite Latinos making up 19% of the population, less than seven percent of all U.S. physicians are Latino. This lack of representation leads to significant healthcare barriers and inequalities for Latino patients.
In an effort to address this issue, National Latino Physician Day was established on October 1. The day aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by Latino doctors and encourage systematic changes in the medical field to increase their representation in the workforce.
Dr. Michael Galvez, a pediatric hand surgeon in California, initiated a national campaign last year to bring attention to the obstacles faced by Latino and Latina doctors. He believes that having plastic surgeons who resemble their patients is crucial for the specialty. In a diverse state like California, where there is a high percentage of Latinos, Asians, Blacks, and other ethnicities, excluding any aspect of that diversity means not fully taking care of the entire population. Dr. Galvez emphasizes that the reason physicians become doctors is to help patients, and to do so effectively, they must consider the needs of all patients, including aesthetic considerations that may differ among different patient populations.
Representation also plays a significant role in improving overall health outcomes for patients. Studies have shown that when patients and physicians share the same ethnicity, there is improved communication, cultural sensitivity, and higher patient satisfaction, ultimately leading to better health outcomes. Latino doctors can help address cultural and language barriers that often arise when serving certain patients. Their ability to speak Spanish allows them to connect with patients on a deeper level and ensure that vital health information is not lost in translation.
In the field of plastic surgery, there is a need for more Latino physicians. Dr. Galvez highlights the importance of role models and mentors for the next generation of doctors. He encourages Latino medical students to seek guidance from individuals who understand their background and values, even if they are outside of their division or department. Finding support and building connections can help prevent burnout and increase the likelihood of success for minority students.
Dr. Galvez’s personal experiences have shaped his understanding of the challenges faced by Latino communities in accessing medical care. Growing up uninsured with immigrant parents from Peru, he credits his interest in medicine to his grandfather, who was a pediatric surgeon in Peru but could not practice in the U.S. His cultural experiences and ability to speak Spanish have allowed him to connect with patients from all walks of life, not just Latinos. He emphasizes the importance of treating patients like family and providing the best care possible.
Dr. Galvez calls on current plastic surgeons to actively participate in breaking down barriers for Latino medical students. He urges them to dedicate time throughout the year to mentor underserved students, including Latinos, and provide the support needed to succeed in a complex and competitive specialty. By working together, the medical community can address the shortage of Latino doctors and improve healthcare outcomes for all patients.