Almost 7 million Californians lack adequate access to a family doctor, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A large number of them are Spanish speakers.
More than a third of California’s population is Latino, but only 6 percent of the doctors in California are Latino, according to the University of California, Los Angeles. This causes hardship when patients are matched with doctors who don’t understand their language or culture.
On top of that, many counties in California already have a primary care physician shortage — meaning they have one doctor or fewer for every 3,000 residents. Rural and low-income patients are impacted the most, especially those communities in Northern California, the Central Valley, Inland Empire, and some parts of Los Angeles County.
Fortunately, medical professionals across the state are working to bridge that divide.
As just one example, UCLA’s International Medical Graduate Program recruits doctors from Spanish-speaking countries who are already in the U.S. The program ushers students through licensing requirements, helps them learn English, and places them in a medical residency.
And the program is completely free if students commit to working in underserved Californian communities for a couple of years after graduation. So far, 118 doctors have graduated from the program.