The shortage of Latino doctors in the United States is presenting a significant challenge for the medical profession. Despite Latinos representing 19% of the population, less than seven percent of physicians in the country are Latino. This disparity has resulted in healthcare barriers, inequalities, and poorer outcomes for Latino patients. In an effort to address these challenges and promote change, National Latino Physician Day was established and is now celebrated annually on October 1.
Dr. Michael Galvez, a pediatric hand surgeon in California, initiated a national campaign last year to raise awareness about the obstacles faced by Latino doctors. He believes that increasing the number of Latino physicians is crucial for providing quality care to a diverse patient population. Galvez emphasizes that plastic surgeons, in particular, should reflect the diversity of their patients. By excluding a certain aspect of the population, healthcare providers fail to fully address the needs of their entire patient base. Galvez also highlights the importance of representation in improving overall health outcomes. Patients are more likely to trust and communicate effectively with physicians who share their ethnicity, leading to higher patient satisfaction and better health outcomes.
One advantage that Latino doctors bring is the ability to overcome cultural and language barriers. Being able to speak Spanish, in particular, allows physicians to effectively communicate with patients and ensure that important health information is not lost in translation. Galvez describes this ability as a “superpower” that enables doctors to connect with patients, deliver post-surgery instructions, and explain the importance, risks, benefits, and alternatives of procedures.
The field of plastic surgery, in particular, is in need of more Latino physicians. Galvez acknowledges that the lack of role models and mentors can make it difficult for aspiring Latino doctors to succeed in this specialty. He encourages medical students to seek guidance from individuals who understand their background and values, even if they are outside of their division or department. Galvez believes that systemic changes are necessary to provide support for minority students and reduce the attrition rate they face.
Galvez’s personal experiences have shaped his understanding of the challenges faced by the Latino community in accessing medical care. Growing up uninsured and witnessing his grandfather’s struggles as a pediatric surgeon from Peru, Galvez is committed to connecting with patients from all walks of life. He emphasizes the importance of establishing a familial bond with patients, regardless of their ethnicity.
In order to break down barriers for Latino medical students and provide them with the support they need to succeed in the field of plastic surgery, Galvez urges current plastic surgeons to dedicate time throughout the year to mentor underserved students, including Latinos. By actively participating in the mentorship of future doctors, plastic surgeons can contribute to a more diverse and inclusive medical workforce.