California Faces Severe Shortfall in Latino Resident Physicians According to New Report

May 06, 2019

LOS ANGELES - AltaMed Health Services, one of the nation’s largest federally qualified community health centers, partnered with the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative for a study that found California has the lowest rate in the nation of Latino physicians at 50 per 100,000 population. More Latinos reside in California than in any other state in the nation (39% of the state’s population), according to the Pew Research Institute. The report cites that the shortage of Latino physicians is partly due to U.S. medical schools admitting very few Latino students.

 “Graduating from medical school is tough enough. Additionally, many Latino students have to overcome significant financial and academic disadvantages and underrepresentation in the sciences before they can get accepted into a program,” said Efrain Talamantes, M.D., medical director of the AltaMed Institute of Health Equity. “If current trends continue, it would take 500 years before we had enough Latino physicians graduate to meet the needs of our communities.”

To immediately address this issue, AltaMed will launch its the Health Resources and Services Administration funded Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) in partnership with Charles Drew University on June 17, 2019. HCOP is a six-week program for aspiring physicians living in Los Angeles and Orange counties that provides onsite learning in a community-based health care center, professional networking and research opportunities. This year the AltaMed HCOP program received 140 applications for 25 positions.

“There’s a great need for enrichment programs that offer tutoring, counseling, mentorship, scholarships and exposure to the medical profession,” said Dr. Talamantes. “At AltaMed, we’re committed to continue training and hiring professionals from within our own communities because we want our physicians and staff to be as culturally diverse as the patients we serve.”

Reducing the impact of the California Latino physician and resident shortage will require specialized policy interventions with short-term and long-term outcomes. This includes reorganizing medical education and residency training programs and implementing strategies to expand the primary care capacity to meet the needs of all Californians.

To address the gap in the Latino physician and resident shortage in California, the report suggested changes that include: 

  • Increase medical school admissions for Latinos.
  • Incentivize out-of-state M.D. graduates with loan repayment programs if they commit to primary care practice in California for at least five years.
  • Implement programs within primary and secondary education systems that propel Latino students to pursue a career in healthcare and equip them with the skills needed to succeed.
  • Expand the number of international medical graduates in California.
  • Expand California M.D. programs to emphasize primary medical care for underserved communities in the form of new medical schools.
  • Increase the number of California primary care residency slots by expanding training opportunities in state hospitals and community clinics of medically and linguistically underserved communities.

The Latino physician and resident shortage in California impacts the overall wellbeing of all Californians. By increasing medical school admissions for Latino students, it will reduce language barriers and healthcare disparities among the growing Latino population. To read the full report:

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