HEALTH CARE EXPERTS EXPLORE WHY THERE AREN'T MORE LATINOS WORKING IN THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY.
The Latino community continues to make strides in increasing its influence across numerous industries and fields of study, but there's one industry where it's still lagging behind: the medical field.
According to a 2015 study from UCLA's Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, the number of Latino physicians per 100,000 Latinos has dropped by 22%. In 1980, there were 135 Latino physicians per every 100,000 Latinos; by 2010 that figure fell to 105 per 100,000. David Hayes-Bautista, a UCLA professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the Geffen School of Medicine, wrote a paper in 2000 projecting the number of Latino physicians in California would drop 6 percent by 2020.
There are a number of reasons for the decline of the Latino physician numbers, according to Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association. One is generational. Prior to 1960, few Latino students were attending college, let alone medical school, Rios said. The Latino population in the West was high at the time and Latinos had fewer options for higher education institutions. Rios herself attended UCLA medical school, which didn't open until 1960.
"The majority lived in their community, where they followed the footsteps of their parents," Rios said. "My grandparents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico who came to this country for jobs. The third generation in my family was born in the 1950s; all of my cousins started going to college, but it was because of financial aid."
In the 1960s, the National Health Service Corps made a push to recruit more Latino medical students, introducing programs to give money to schools to help with their recruiting efforts. Conferences and offices were set up in locations like El Paso and Houston, Texas, as well as Los Angeles--places with big Latino families. Despite these efforts to improve recruiting, the number of Latinos in the medical field has not increased.
Rios says the plateau wasn't due to lack of effort, but instead because the recruiting net cast was not wide enough. To expand its search, the National Hispanic Medical Association advocated in Washington, D.C., for years to develop a more regional approach to recruiting.
"There should be programs that are regional and reach more students," Rios said. "Not just two schools that are feeder schools for that one...