SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Celebrating Hispanic heritage also means highlighting the changes the community wants to see to better their culture.
And doctors at Santa Clara Valley Healthcare are calling for a change in the number of Latine physicians -- an amount they say is much too low.
"While 20% of our population in Santa Clara County identifies as Latine, the overwhelming number of our patients here at this hospital -- more than 50% identify as Latine," said Santa Clara Valley Healthcare Pediatric Gastroenterologist Rachel Ruiz. "Yet, only 5% of our physicians do. We can do better."
This struggle is felt at a national and state level, with 39% of California's Latine population only amounting to 6% of the state's physicians and 8% of medical school graduates in 2021.
These healthcare workers now celebrate National Latine Physician's Day on October first to bring awareness to these statistics and deliver a call to action to do better.
"We are done being passive, this is a physician shortage crisis," said National Latine Physicians Day Co-Founder Dr. Cesar Padilla.
The concern these physicians have is that just like with any relationship, a doctor-patient bond requires a certain amount of trust in order to work properly. Without that trust, people don't feel safe seeking care.
Ruiz says that lack of trust fuels health disparities.
"There's so much fear and anxiety," Ruiz said. "You're worried about what the doctor's going to say, blood pressure. You're worried about judgment. You're worried about so many things. And to have someone that can relate really helps bring those guardrails down."
This group says awareness on a day like National Latine Physician's Day is just the start.
They want the next step to be building the pipeline in schools from a young age to help turn the tide and make a difference.
"Our healthcare systems should make a concerted effort to provide early opportunities in volunteering, interning and working within our health system to the communities we serve," said Santa Clara Valley Healthcare Primary Care Medical Director Dr. Angela Suarez.
"We need guaranteed pathways -- porque ya basta," Padilla said.
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