As more patients from underserved populations start to enter the health care system through health care reform, there will be an increasing need to have more African-American and Latino physicians to help provide quality health care. Kaiser Permanente is working to address the shortage of physicians by expanding its relationship with National Medical Fellowships and contributing $1 million to support medical students through education and training programs.
"Kaiser Permanente understands the importance of having a health care workforce that will reflect the diversity of our ever-evolving population," said Yvette Radford, a member of the NMF board and Vice President for External and Community Affairs, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. "We recognize that there are insufficient numbers of African-American and Latino medical students, and our support for NMF is one way to help address this important issue."
According to U.S. Census data and the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, African-Americans represent 14 percent of the U.S. population and only four percent of physicians. Meanwhile, Latinos represent 16 percent of the population and five percent of physicians.
Understanding and addressing health disparities is crucial to improving community health. Greater access to providers is the first place to start. When given the opportunity, minority patients often select a physician or health care professional of their own racial-ethnic and cultural background because there is a high level of confidence that the physician will understand the patient's unique health care needs. This will have a positive impact on health outcomes and provide equitable care to our communities.
"Every time a member walks through the door, we want them to feel that they are being heard and cared for by someone who understands. Whether they see a Latina surgeon, an African-American cardiologist who is fluent in Spanish, or their trusted family physician- we provide them culturally responsive care, the highest quality of care in the language the member prefers and with respect for their culture at every point of contact," said Frank Meza, MD, MPH, Family Medicine and Physician Ambassador, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and 2007 Recipient of the NMF Distinguished Alumni Award.