University of California-Irvine Launches Program To Train Physicians To Care for Latinos
The University of California-Irvine this summer launched a new program that trains medical students specifically on how to most effectively care for Latino patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, Latinos in the United States face both linguistic and cultural barriers to care, and the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community at UCI is believed to be the first in the country intended to improve care of Latinos by training physicians in the history, geography and cultures of Latin America.
The program, launched with a grant from the California Endowment, has enrolled eight students. Program participants are required to speak Spanish and have a history of working with low-income populations.
The students attend four years of medical school and spend one year studying for master's degrees in business administration or public health to prepare them for leadership in health care reform efforts. Prior to the beginning of the program, students spend six weeks studying Spanish, medicine and Latino culture in Mexico.
During their subsequent four years of medical school, program participants take most of the same classes as other medical students -- with some modified to emphasize Latino care -- and spend time in hospitals that treat large numbers of Latino patients. Students also attend lectures on nonmedical issues, such as the legal rights of relatives of undocumented immigrants.
The students are expected to spend their careers working with Latino patients. UC officials say the program could be a model for other programs targeted at other underserved populations at other UC medical schools.
Michael Drake, UC's vice president of health affairs, said immigrants traditionally have been underserved in the U.S. health care system, adding, that the "problems are all of ours, and all of us ought to have the opportunity to find a solution."
Alberto Manetta, senior associate dean for educational affairs at UCI's medical school and director of the program, added, "It's very obvious to me that any type of health care goals the state or national could have cannot be achieved if you leave behind a very large section of the population" (Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times, 12/30/04).