New UCLA LPPI Study Highlights Urgent Need for Improved Representation of Latina Physicians in the Medical Field
August 3, 2023UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute
LOS ANGELES – A new report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) reveals a severe underrepresentation of Latina physicians in the U.S. and California, emphasizing the need for immediate action to address this critical issue.
The report, authored by Yohualli B. Anaya; Paul T. Hsu, assistant professor of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding; Seira Santizo Greenwood; and David E. Hayes-Bautista, professor of health policy and management at UCLA Fielding, provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of Latina physician representation and its implications for health equity, and also sheds light on a significant disparity between the Latino population and the number of Latino physicians:
Despite Latinos comprising almost 18% of the U.S. population, only 6.3% of physicians in the country are Latino, and Latinas make up a mere 2.4% of the physician population.
Alarmingly, in California, where Latinos make up 39% of the population, only 6.4% of physicians are Latino, and Latinas represent just 2.7% of the physician population.
The UCLA LPPI report also highlights the language accessibility challenges faced by Latino patients and the crucial role of Spanish-capable Latina physicians in addressing these disparities. Latina physicians in the U.S. are 35.6 times more likely to speak Spanish than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.
“These findings highlight the pressing need to prioritize investments in health equity and proactively address the shortage of Latina physicians and the importance of doing so at all levels of the educational pathway,” said Dr. Yohualli B. Anaya, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and lead author of the report. “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.”
To promote the representation of Latinas in the medical field, Dr. Anaya and her co-authors offer several recommendations for policymakers, academic institutions, and research professions. The recommendations include:
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 STEMM fields.
Enhancing pre-med advising support for students, including state and institutional investment and developing best practices to promote underrepresented in medicine (URiM) student success.
Investing in community college student support, including scholarships and clinical exposure opportunities, to address socioeconomic disadvantage and increase representation.
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 (COEs) to demonstrate sustained growth in URiM students and faculty.
“This report underscores the critical importance of adopting innovative approaches and implementing best practices to achieve substantial and lasting progress in the representation of Latinas in the medical field,” said David E. Hayes-Bautista, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the School of Medicine, UCLA, and co-author of the report. “We urge policymakers, academic institutions, and the healthcare industry to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental pillars of the medical profession.”
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute is a non-partisan research institute that seeks to inform, engage, and empower Latinos through innovative research and policy analysis. LPPI aims to promote equitable and inclusive policies that address the needs of the Latino community and advance social justice.