Celida Lizarraga doesn’t remember seeing many doctors who looked like her when she had to translate for her parents during medical visits.
The 17-year-old said most doctors didn’t speak Spanish and an official interpreter wasn’t always available. And even when interpreters were there, she said, there was disconnect between her parents and the doctor.
“I was the one who my parents relied on,” Lizarraga said.
The group Latino Physicians of California is emphasizing the need for more Latino physicians in the state, where about 40 percent of the population is Latino, but less than 5 percent of doctors are Latino.
During a media phone conference on Friday, the group’s leaders spoke about the findings of the three-year survey and policy brief, which highlight the lack of representation, consequences of having that gap, and efforts to encourage Latino youth to pursue medicine.
Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities and author of the report, said there is a “storm hitting our state” and it has several components: an increase in the Latino population, which in turn increases the number of Latinos who are in need of services and now qualify for insurance under the Affordable Care Act but who still have challenges accessing and utilizing services.
“Latinos have been underserved for a long time in terms of those key components — access and utilization — and also in quality of care,” he said.