DIVERSITY: CA Suffers Shortage of Latino MDs
According to a study the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture will release Thursday, only 4.8% of the state's 74,345 physicians are Latino, a shortage that bodes ill for the burgeoning Latino community, the Los Angeles Times reports. Latino and African-American physicians are more likely to practice in poorer areas, according to medical school surveys. Also, some Latin American immigrants say non-Spanish speaking doctors are not "culturally competent" to deal with their illnesses. Given that only 11% of new students enrolling in the five University of California medical schools are from underrepresented minorities, the future could be bleak for the state's 10.4 million Latinos and other members of medically underserved communities. According to David Hayes-Bautista, the study's lead author, a critical shortage of Latino physicians will occur. "[T]he question isn't how bad it will get, but how quickly we will get there," he said.
The study's authors argue that the shortage can be staved off by more aggressive minority recruiting at state medical schools. However, Dr. Robert Beltran, president of the California Latino Medical Association, speculated that it would take at least 25 years to achieve parity. "And that would mean pulling every non- Hispanic currently enrolled in medical school out and replacing them with Latino students," he claimed. According to the study, there is one Latino doctor for every 2,893 Latino residents in the state, while there is one non-Latino doctor for every 335 non-Latino residents. The federal government defines a "doctor shortage" as those communities that have fewer than one physician for every 3,500 patients (Olivo, 1/19).