Wall Street Journal Examines Program Launched To Increase Number of U.S. Physicians Who Speak Spanish
A pilot program launched by the University of California-Los Angeles "taps into the surplus" of medical school graduates in Latin America to address the "chronic shortage" of U.S. physicians who speak Spanish, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, Hispanics account for 14% of the U.S. population but only 5% of U.S. physicians, and hospitals and clinics nationwide are "struggling with Spanish-speaking patients" amid a "record influx of Latin American immigrants." The language barrier can result in unnecessary tests, emergency department visits, and inaccurate and delayed diagnoses that cost millions of dollars annually. In addition, the language barrier can lead to confusion about medication dosages and side effects, noncompliance with instructions from physicians and decreased likelihood of follow-up care.
The pilot program -- developed by Patrick Dowling, a professor of family medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and Michelle Bholat, a physician -- over 14 months prepares medical school graduates in Latin America for U.S. medical board examinations and provides them with internship opportunities at university hospitals and help with their applications for residency programs. In exchange, participants must work at least three years in medically underserved areas, such as large cities or rural communities, after they complete their residency programs. The program, launched in February and funded by private foundations, currently has about 14 participants at a cost of about $48,000 each.
Dowling said, "To provide safe and quality care, a physician has to understand the patient" (Jordan, Wall Street Journal, 12/18).