Despite progress in gender diversity in the medical field, gaps remain for Latina physicians. A new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute reveals that Latina physicians in California and the U.S. are severely underrepresented. The report highlights the significant disparity between the Latino population and the number of Latino physicians.
Despite progress in gender diversity in the medical field, gaps remain for Latina physicians. A new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute reveals that Latina physicians in California and the U.S. are severely underrepresented. It has been shown that physicians who speak Spanish are essential to improving Latino healthcare access and addressing health disparities and outcomes.
The report, authored in part by Dr. Yohualli B. Anaya, provides the current status of Latina physician representation and its conclusions for health equity. It also highlights the significant disparity between the Latino population and the number of Latino physicians. Dr. Anaya believes that in order to help alleviate the shortage of Latina physicians, the pressing need is to prioritize investments in health equity and support all levels of the educational pathway.
D. Anaya also said that Latina physicians are the most underrepresented, making up only 2.4 percent of the physician population in the U.S..
Latinos made up 17.8 percent and white individuals made up 61.1 of the U.S. population in the study period.
“In California, Latinos comprised 39 percent of the state’s population, yet just 6 percent of physicians were Latina/o/e. Latinas made up less than 3 percent of California’s physician population,” according to UCLA LPPI report.
Additionally, her report points to a drastic need to increase Latina representation in the medical field, including at academic and research institutions.
Dr. Anaya is a primary care doctor at the Access Community Health Center Wingra Family Medical Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Among her duties are to teach residents and medical students about inpatient and outpatient family medicine. Her clinical interests include primary care for the whole family, including pediatrics and outpatient procedures, and providing language-concordant care to Spanish-speaking patients. Dr. Anaya is passionate about improving the health and healthcare of minority and marginalized communities.
“It is evident that previous efforts to diversify the physician workforce have fallen short, particularly in addressing the scarcity of Latino physicians and trainees. Moreover, the report underscores the distinct value Latina physicians bring to medicine, Dr. Anaya said.
To read the report, click here.
CALÓ NEWS interviewed Dr. Anaya about the findings of her report and the lack of Latina doctors in the medical field.
Yohualli B. Anaya, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, She/Her/Ella, Latina
HOW DOES THE RULING OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CONTRIBUTED TO THE SHORTAGE OF LATINA PHYSICIANS?
The shortage of Latina physicians and Latinx physicians more broadly is an issue that has been continuing for many years. It’s something that has been documented by the research center that I am a part of, which is the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture. And it has been documented by the center for at least 20 years and we have seen the shortage. Other aspects of our research have documented the magnitude of this shortage. This is an issue that already pre-existed before those rulings but it’s certainly not going to help the situation. It just continues to highlight the efforts that we need to embark on and to really ensure patient populations, which are very diverse and we need to have the clinicians that really meet their needs, understand them in their own language and understand them in a culturally concordant way.
WHAT ARE SOME MAIN BARRIERS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO LATINA PHYSICIAN SHORTAGES?
There are a number of things contributing to the shortage and in my report, I highlight some of these that are actionable, that we can really try to prioritize and that is broken down into the three biggest categories in education. It’s certainly a pathway issue and needs to be addressed at multiple time points in the pathway. Such as in early education to medical education and after. So, it really starts with investing in education from an early age. It also starts with teachers who have that professional development that supports the investment from our educational institution in order to really be able to provide a high-quality education to a student regardless of what community they live in, or their socioeconomic background.
Then you think of students that are in the pre-medical school route and are already doing junior college and we really need to start by supporting them with scholarships, for example, to ensure that they’re able to pay for this education because medical education is very expensive. In order to recruit students, who are first-generation Latino immigrants, they are most likely not coming from influential backgrounds. So, ensuring that we are providing scholarships for these students is going to ensure that they’re able to be successful and enter these areas in the first place.
Another barrier is language accessibility challenges faced by Latino patients.
HOW DOES THE LATINA PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE IMPACT PATIENT CARE IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY?
The reason why I do this work is to improve health outcomes for Latino and other diverse patient populations. It’s important that we have both language concordance and racial concordance in order to improve that inherent, improve patient satisfaction and ensure quality.
If a patient doesn’t speak the primary language or if the provider doesn’t speak the primary language of a patient there’s going to be a big chance for miscommunication and errors that can lead to quality issues and effects on health outcomes. And we are really working on reducing disparities and promoting health equity for Latino patients. All Latinos are not the same so it’s important that we have representation across socioeconomic demographics across the variants of Latino cultures. It’s also important that we address true diversity as we are a very diverse group of Latinos.
In California, Latina physicians were similarly underrepresented, making up only 2.7 percent of the physician population.
A MAJOR PRE-EXISTING BARRIER IS UNDERGRAD AND MEDICAL SCHOOL DEBT, WHICH DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTS MINORITIES. ARE CURRENT PROGRAMS MITIGATING THIS?
This is something that we really need to reinforce of course. Especially institutions that are doing things about it. There are programs out there that support students coming from underrepresented minority backgrounds. There are also other programs that support students in clinical training, research training and all of that. And we have seen that with the efforts that we have going on that it’s insufficient and we have the numbers to be able to meet the needs and we wouldn’t be so underrepresented in the sufficient population. So, yes we have some programs and support and this evidence provides additional evidence that we need more of that.
WHAT ARE SOME RECOMMENDATIONS IN YOUR REPORT THAT PROMOTE LATINA REPRESENTATION IN THE MEDICAL FIELD?
It starts with incorporating evidence-informed educational strategies from an early stage, including active learning exercises and peer-led team learning, to improve outcomes for all students and engage underrepresented students in STEM fields. Enhancing pre-med advising support for students, including state and institutional investment and developing best practices to promote underrepresented in medicine student success. Also investing in community college student support, including scholarships and clinical exposure opportunities, to address socioeconomic disadvantage and increase representation. And lastly, adopting inclusive admissions practices that consider socioeconomic disadvantage alongside academic metrics, protecting the ability of DACA and undocumented students to pursue medical education, and leveraging Centers of Excellence to demonstrate sustained growth underrepresented in medicine students and faculty.
DESPITE LATINOS COMPRISING ALMOST 18% OF THE U.S. POPULATION WHY AREN’T THERE ENOUGH PHYSICIANS IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES?
Research has shown that students in underrepresented minority backgrounds are going to most likely return to their community and low-income communities to serve as physicians there. So, if we don’t have sufficient numbers of physician representation of minorities it’s something that can contribute to the shortage of physicians in low-income communities. It’s really important to increase the representation across the board of underrepresented minorities. We only have 2.4% of Latina physicians and that 2.4% of Latinas isn’t going to fit in all low-income communities or in all medical schools, or research because there are just not enough people in this field. So, in order to get all those people in those areas we have to recruit more people in the medical field.