September 29, 2023
In recognition of National Latino Physician Day on October 1, 2023, Donaldo Hernandez, M.D., President of the California Medical Association (CMA), highlighted the need for increased Latino representation in the physician workforce and the connection between culturally and linguistically competent care and improved patient health.
"California is a world leader in innovation and opportunity, a place where aspiration becomes reality," said CMA President Donaldo Hernandez, M.D. "After the centuries-long contribution of Latinos in support of this state and its growth to an economy that rivals or exceeds almost all nations, the time is now to assure the health and wellbeing of Latino communities for all time."
“For a state as diverse as California, increasing the number of physicians of color is essential. Studies repeatedly confirm that when patients receive culturally and linguistically congruent care, they are better able to communicate their needs with and are better understood by their physicians experiencing better health outcomes.”
Research has also shown that patients who encounter language barriers are more likely to experience worse health outcomes.
“Unfortunately, California still has a long way to go toward our goal of increased diversity in the physician workforce, especially with the expansion of eligibility to all Californians and the increase of Medi-Cal benefits on the horizon,” Dr. Hernandez said. “The number of Latino physicians and medical students is greatly disproportionate to their share of the population at-large, and for Latinas the problem is even more pronounced.”
Latino groups are underrepresented in health occupations that require an advanced degree, and Spanish-speaking physicians are the most underrepresented language group in California’s physician workforce, with only 62.1 per 100,000 Spanish speakers compared to 344.2 physicians per 100,000 English speakers. Additionally, a recent study found that Latinas are troublingly rare among physicians, making up only 2% of the U.S. physician population.
“National Latino Physician Day is a potent reminder of the work we need to do, and CMA remains steadfast in ensuring that all communities have access to high-quality and life-saving health care,” Dr. Hernandez said. “Creating a physician pipeline that reflects the diversity of California will create a more just and equitable health care system that serves all our communities.”