Only 6% of practicing physicians are Hispanic. Does it affect the health of Latinos?

Although Hispanics and African-Americans make up about 17% and 13% of the US population, respectively, they only make up 6% and 5% of practicing physicians, according to a report by the American Heart Association (AHA). .

“Diversity among physicians is essential to improve patient care and health outcomes. That’s especially important in cardiology,” said Norissa Haynes, MD, the report’s first author.

Variation Among Applicants to Medical Schools

Despite the fact that applications for admission to medical schools in the US increased by 47% between 1980 and 2016, that of African-Americans and Hispanics increased only 1.2%, according to the report published on January 5 in the journal of the AHA Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

But other sources contrast the data. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2022, 10% of medical students were African-American; and the number of Hispanic students increased to 12%.

Lack of diversity affects heart health

Among cardiologists treating adults, 5% are Hispanic and 2.7% black, according to the report. from the AHA.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This makes cardiology workers “extremely important” to global health, said Michelle A. Albert, president of the AHA and immediate past president of the Association of Black Cardiologists.

How does diversity contribute to the health of patients?

“If you come from that culture, you know and understand that background, and you know and understand those patterns of the population you treat, you’re more likely to identify with them and, in turn, they’ll trust you more,” said the Dr. Gladys Velarde.

Velarde, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Florida-Jacksonville School of Medicine, gave examples of how diversity can help a doctor understand how to treat patients.

For example, a doctor who knows a patient’s cultural traditions around their favorite foods can guide them on how to make them healthier, Velarde said.

It might also help a doctor understand that a patient who has been told to exercise more may not have a safe space to walk around, so they might recommend a place to salsa dance as an alternative.

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