Is There A Dr. In The House That Speaks Spanish?

Is There A Dr. In The House That Speaks Spanish?

by Yolanda Cardenas, M.D.

Photo Credit: Yolanda Cardenas M.D.

A recent Domingo Newsbytes pointed out that the Association of American Medical Colleges states there aren’t enough Latino doctors for the growing Latino population in the U.S. Only 6% of medical students are Latino.

As a Latina physician, this wasn’t earth-shattering news to me.   I didn’t encounter many Latino students during my medical training.  I was 1 of 5 Latinos in my class at medical school.  When I finished my residency training, I began to meet more Latino physicians.   This was mainly because of where I chose to practice medicine.

I’ve worked in clinics, which provide medical care to the under-served, uninsured, under-insured and predominantly Spanish speaking populations.  I started to wonder why things haven’t changed much in the last 10 years.  A couple of weeks ago, I also saw another article, which stated that Latinos are less likely to attend 4-year universities.  Latinos tend to attend community colleges.   I think that this trend coupled with a fear of debt is two of the main reasons for the shortage of Latino physicians.    To become a physician, you have to obtain a university degree in order to apply to medical schools.   Not applying to university or choosing not to attend a university is an obstacle towards obtaining a medical degree.

Unfortunately, the problem starts before the university.   Large numbers of Latinos are still dropping out of high school.   No high school diploma means no university degree and no medical degree.  We have to continue stressing the importance of education to our Latino youth.   Excelling in high school is vital for increasing one’s opportunity for scholarships and acceptance to top-notch university programs.

Finances still play a key role in not only attending a university but also in choosing medicine as a career.   I have seen several people decline universities’ offers of admission because they can’t afford the tuition and fees.  Some students (and their parents) are afraid to take out educational loans and decide to attend community colleges because of their cheaper tuition.  Other students take a leave of absence from school in order to work and fund their university expenses.  But this stop and go approach towards a bachelor’s degree can become frustrating and result in dropping out of university.  Medical school is expensive. There are few opportunities for scholarships at this level of education.   If you are serious about becoming a physician, it’s a fact that you will have a monstrous debt when you graduate from medical school.

What we have to realize is that our education is an investment.    For the most part, I avoided student loans at my university but I knew that wouldn’t be the case in medical college.   There was no way my father could afford sending two daughters to medical college.  I’m still paying off my medical school loans.  Do I wish I didn’t have that debt?  Yes, but my investment has paid off.    I am in an honorable profession that teaches me about the human body but most importantly continues to teach me about the human spirit.   One of the things I never expected was that medicine would inspire my art.

Instead of being polar opposites, these two worlds are harmonizing in me.

Nuestra gente needs and wants more Latino physicians.  If you have a love of science and humanity and want to join me in this amazing profession, my advice is always give 100% at school, put aside your fears and make that investment.

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