UIC hopes to increase number of Latino physicians
By Jason Lee, Tribune Media Services
Research shows that diversifying the U.S. physician workforce is critical to making health care accessible to more Americans.
That’s notably true for the nation’s Latino population, where the number of Latino physicians has lagged behind its growth to the largest U.S. minority. Latinos make up about 17 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This figure is projected to nearly double by 2050.
But while the number of Latino students enrolled in medical school reached a record 1,731 this year, the Latino percentage of all medical school applicants was just 7.9 percent, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges’ annual report, “Diversity in Medical Education.” The report also found that Latinos currently make up about 4 percent of U.S. medical school faculty.
The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Hispanic Center of Excellence aims to reverse this disparity.
The center, part of the UIC College of Medicine, spearheads a number of programs aimed at recruiting and supporting Hispanic medical school students and faculty. This fall, the college received a five-year, $3.4 million grant to support programs that address the shortage of Latino physicians and other health care workers.
Dr. Jorge Girotti, director of the center and dean of admissions for the UIC College of Medicine, said the center would use the new grant to help strengthen and simplify the educational pathway for aspiring Latino physicians, beginning in high school and up to the senior faculty level.
“The grant will build programs that help us accomplish our mission to improve medical care for Latinos by increasing opportunities for students to pursue health careers, and enrich their education with the goal of producing linguistically and culturally competent health practitioners,” Girotti said.
UIC enrolls more Latino students than any other university in Illinois, with the city’s Latino population at nearly 30 percent. According to the university, the grant benefits a number of programs aimed at attracting more Latino students to pursue health careers, including:
Medicina Academy, a program at four high schools that aims to persuade talented students to pursue health careers. Students in the program are supported in their math and science classes while networking with students at other schools and universities. With the grant money, the academy plans to expand services that help students as they make the transition from high school to college.
Academia de Padres Leadership Institute, a parent academy, which began as an outgrowth of Medicina Academy. The one-year curriculum offers Latino parents an opportunity to learn about what medical colleges are seeking from students, and how to navigate the often-complex higher education system.
A summer project that introduces high school students to health careers, tutors them in studying and writing skills, and prepares them for the ACT or other standardized tests. Through the College of Medicine’s Rockford campus, the program also reaches rural areas that have growing Latino populations.
A partnership with UIC’s Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services will offer additional assistance to help ease the transition from high school to college, especially for students pursuing health careers.
A program that features a two-year curriculum for medical students on cultural and linguistic competence. The center also hopes to develop new programs for junior faculty to improve their teaching and research skills, with the hope that they’ll move into senior faculty positions.