National Latino Physician Day (NLPD) was established on October 1, 2022, as a day to celebrate Latino physicians in the United States, who represent 6% of the physician workforce. A strategic aim of NLPD is to simultaneously recognize the critical shortage of Latino physicians when compared to the U.S. population (19%), while sharing evidence-based data showcasing this disparity in Latino physician representation and its potential impact on worsening health care outcomes in the Latino community. In states like California and Texas, Latinos comprise approximately 40% of the population, with future census estimates projecting an increase to 50% by the year 2050. Across the broader U.S., it is expected that 1 in 3 Americans will be of Latino descent by the year 2050. There are significant health care barriers, inequalities, and poorer outcomes in the Latino patient population. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened existing inequalities and outcomes, adding urgency to the mission of improving Latino physician representation.
Latino physicians have historically faced challenges related to loneliness and isolation that can occur at any stage of the medical training spectrum, including medical school, residency/fellowship training, and the transition to faculty roles. Despite the odds and a historically higher rate of attrition compared to white medical students, data shows that Latinos are able to move forward with mentorship, sponsorship, and allies. Once they assume faculty positions and begin taking care of patients on their own, they immediately recognize the value of the care they provide. Although evidence shows improved health care outcomes when there is cultural and linguistic concordance between patients and their physicians, this value is immeasurable at times. An example of this immeasurable success is the “magic” from within our own Latino culture. The depth of the Latino experience encompasses this “magic,” which is often not quantified in scientific studies and includes language, culture, and ethnic origins. This magic allows us to connect with patients on a level that holds additional value.
The origin of a day to create awareness that “6% is not enough” was founded on a friendship that developed over social media. Two Latino men, raised in working-class communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, both attended community college and overcame multiple challenges to become double board certified in subspecialties. They were both passionate about the next generation. In fact, they had crossed paths at the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) premedical conference in 2007. The first author was a medical student who used Hip Hop lyrics to express his journey to a group of premedical students, while the second author was a premedical student in attendance, appreciating that he too could fit into the field of medicine. Fast forward 16 years, and both have now completed their training and practice in their respective fields of pediatric hand surgery and obstetric anesthesiology. However, 16 years later they connected online and quickly realized that something was just not right with the dismally low number of U.S. Latino physicians. How was it possible that both Dr. Michael Galvez and Dr. Cesar Padilla represented the only Latino physicians in California with subspecialty training in pediatric hand surgery and obstetrical critical care? How was this possible given the fact that 1 in 2 babies born in California are to Latina women and 18 million Latino children live in the U.S.?
Out of curiosity, the first author evaluated the ethnic diversity of faculty at a major academic institution by simply reviewing each individual faculty member based on their profiles and surnames. Although this represented an imperfect analysis, it was clear that the number of Latino or Latina physicians was extremely low. At this particular institution, Latino/a physicians represented only 3% of the faculty. This is despite Latinos making up 19% of the U.S. population and 39% of people living in California. How can these numbers at one institution – a leading academic center which serves a large underserved Latino community – be so low? After reviewing these shocking numbers, an urgent letter was written and sent to the Department in question. The letter offered insight into the source of the problem and provided a detailed outline for improving diversity within the faculty and the residency program. Unfortunately, these efforts resulted in isolated meetings within the confines of the Department’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer and did not involve higher leadership. Ultimately, these meetings resulted in no measurable action. This frustration with the inaction from a Department in a leading academic institution led to the inevitable conclusion that many physicians, particularly those in leadership and academics, may not fully appreciate the crisis that the Latino community faces due to inadequate representation in the physician workforce.
Figure 1: Design of the National Latino/a Physician Day.
This raw emotion led to a tweet declaring the need for a national day for Latino and Latina physicians to create acute awareness. A national grassroots effort was initiated. A T-shirt was strategically designed with the front reading “National Latino/a Physician Day” and the back displaying the date “Primero de Octubre” (October 1, Figure 1). The back of the T-shirt declared the message “Necesitamos más” (We need more!). The date was chosen to be in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) for easy remembrance and to avoid significant conflicts with other national recognition days. A strategy was developed to raise awareness and funds using these T-shirts, with proceeds going to MiMentor, a nonprofit organization for underserved premedical students. A social media campaign was launched on several platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Preliminary T-shirts were printed and modeled by the authors to promote the day, with pictures and videos taken on the Stanford University campus. Multiple rounds of T-shirt fundraising promised momentum for this movement, as every social media post generated sales of the T-shirt. Direct messages, emails, and text messages were also sent out to notify friends, colleagues, and allies.
In the time leading up to October 1, 2022, we had multiple conversations with Latina and Latino leaders in medicine and surgery to ensure that this idea for a national day was moving in an upward trajectory. We were fortunate to receive powerful advice from many, repeatedly confirming that we were creating something that was much needed. To be as inclusive as possible, we ensured that we would encompass the wonderful diversity of the Latino/a/x/Hispanic population, including differences in country, generation, sex, ethnicity, and more. We proceeded full steam ahead to create an acute awareness of this issue.
A website was then established, detailing the day and providing actionable items on how to participate. Deliberately, the decision was made that no single person would own the day, and that all Latinos and Latinas would come together. A letter was created for easy dissemination to any institution about the day, and this was sent across the country to various institutions. The hashtags #nationallatinophysicianday and #nationallatinxphysicianday were coined for the event.
We then sought collaborations and buy-in from the Latino medical and surgical societies. This resulted in multiple meetings where we declared our intentions and received universal approval that this was something our community needed. We also sought the approval of many entities, as detailed in Table 1. We obtained support from the American Medical Association, California Medical Association, and the California General Surgeon. The National Latino Medical Association created a second version of the T-shirt and further promoted it within their national chapters, which included live events. Equally, if not more importantly, were the direct connections we established via social media with other Latinos and Latinas willing to contribute effort to create live events with media coverage and social media engagement to inspire others for the day. Institutions collaborated to organize live events, including Stanford, AltaMed, and Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles.
Table 1: Sponsors/Partners for National Latino/a Physician Day.
American Association of Latino Orthopedic Surgeons
#Latinas in Medicine
Latinas in Medicine Nonprofit, Inc.
Latino Medical Student Association
Latino Surgical Society
Latinos in Pediatrics
Latino/a Plastic Surgery Society
Latinx Physicians of California
Medical Organization for Latino Advancement
National Hispanic Medical Association
Salud Con Tech
The Latino Coalition Against COVID-19
National and State Organizations:
Alta Med Southern California
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Pediatrics, North California Chapter
American Medical Association
American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Association of American Medical College
California Society of Anesthesiologists
Infectious Diseases Society of America Foundation
Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America
San Bernardino County Medical Society
Stanford School of Medicine (Office of Diversity and Medical Education)
Kaiser Permanente Southern California
Kaiser Permanente LatinX Association
Nicklaus Children’s Health System
Northwest Community Healthcare
Office of the California Surgeon General
Swedish Hospital Chicago
University California San Diego School of Medicine
University of California San Francisco, Office of Diversity & Outreach
Valley Children’s Pediatric Residency
Our message for National Latino Physician Day was simple and threefold: 1) Appreciate those who are giving back to their community, 2) Recognize that 6% representation is insufficient and that we are severely underrepresented in the United States, and 3) Motivate the next generation of Latino and Latina physicians to join our ranks in this challenging field for the betterment of our patients.
What resulted was the largest movement to date of Latino and Latina physicians across the United States, with over 1000 separate and personal posts containing photos and videos on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok (Figure 2). Our social media impact included 14 million impressions, surpassing the level of engagement that an average national medical conference would achieve by tenfold (Figure 3). Live events took place across the United States at various institutions, hospitals, and medical schools. More significant than the numbers were the incredible stories that were shared by many within the medical community. Numerous students and physicians expressed pride in this movement and felt recognized.
Figure 2: Instagram posts for National Latino/a Physician Day.
Figure 3: Social media data from brand mentions, including over 1,000 posts from across the country.
What’s next? A yearly and unwavering NLPD movement for the medical community and the public, generating change and addressing the lack of Latino and Latina physicians. This is not merely a day for creating generic clipart social media posts, but rather a day of action for institutions, government bodies, universities, medical schools, hospitals, and more. While the solution is complex, raising awareness is the first step in creating palpable change.
Find out more about National Latino Physician Day.
Michael Galvez is an advocate for improving diversity in medicine and a pediatric hand surgeon. He can be reached on Twitter and Instagram @michaelgalvezMD. His parents immigrated from Lima, Peru, and he grew up in the Bay Area. He attended Diablo Valley Community College, transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, and attended Stanford University for medical school and residency. He completed two fellowships in hand surgery. He is the director of pediatric hand surgery, Valley Children’s Hospital, Madera County, CA. He values the importance of true mentorship and founded National Latino/a Physician Day, celebrated on October 1st.