California’s San Joaquin Valley Attempts To Boost Number of Minority Physicians in Area
The Fresno Bee on Sunday examined efforts to boost the number of minority physicians practicing in the San Joaquin Valley. The area has 30% fewer primary care physicians and 50% fewer specialists per capita than the state as a whole, the Bee reports. In addition, only 5% of doctors in the area are Hispanic, 3% are black and a few are Southeast Asian, according to Katherine Flores, director of the Latino Center for Medical Education and Research at the University of California-San Francisco.
The center oversees the Doctors Academy, which provides academic help, counseling and mentoring opportunities to students at three high schools in the San Joaquin Valley who are interested in medical careers. The academy, which started in 1999 and had about 200 students last year, aims to help young people become doctors who will work in the area.
Academy participants can take specialized classes taught by faculty at the high schools. Last year, about half of the students in the academy were Hispanic, 20% were Southeast Asian, 20% were East Indian and the remainder were black, white or Filipino. More than 80% of the academy's students have studied or are studying science, health or math in college, and a couple students have enrolled or are planning to enroll in medical school.
Flores said, "If we could get two or three physicians a year, we would be successful." She added, "If you want a fancy car and a fancy house, all the more power to you, but my hope is that [the students] come back to provide culturally sensitive care."
A proposed medical school at the University of California-Merced also could boost the number of physicians working locally, according to the Bee. The closest medical schools to the San Joaquin Valley are in Davis and San Francisco. Last month, 63 students completed their medical training at UCSF-Fresno, which each year trains about 200 resident physicians in pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery and other specialties. Twenty-two of those physicians plan to remain in the area, the Bee reports (Hoagland, Fresno Bee, 6/22).