Large grants are helping medical schools in Southern California improve diversity, because although Latinos are 39% of the state’s population, they make up only 6% of physicians and 8% of medical-school graduates.
Jeff Kim, program director for the California Wellness Foundation, said his group recently gave $450,000 to support the University of California Riverside School of Medicine‘s efforts to enroll and graduate students from communities of color that are historically underrepresented.
“At the current rate of how we recruit and graduate medical students, it would take us five centuries to have enough Latino doctors to match the Latino share of the population,” Kim reported.
The foundation also gave almost twice that amount to the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, to attract more students and retire some of their medical debt. Both schools are currently expanding their programs. Affirmative action in higher education is illegal in California, so schools recruit heavily in high schools and community colleges in low-income communities.
Kim explained doctors who come from the community, speak its languages and understand its culture are able to offer better care.
“Because of historically problematic interactions with health care, certain communities are going to be less trusting,” Kim pointed out. “But if they see people from their own community, I think that drives up quality of care and access to care.”
According to the California Health Care Foundation, the state faces a shortage of physicians overall, a problem that is particularly acute in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley.
Suzanne Potter, Producer | Contributor
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