LOS ANGELES – Hispanics in this year’s graduating class at UCLA medical school will join the U.S. health-care system with a view to helping the Hispanic community, which needs professionals who understand its culture and language.
“I’m very happy because they sent me to continue my studies for three years at a hospital frequented by many poor people...like me,” 35-year-old Ricardo Salas told Efe.
“At Olive View Hospital in Sylmar (a district in East Los Angeles), where I’m going to work in Spanish and try to get people their medicines, there are a lot of patients who have no medical insurance, many undocumented immigrants, people who have lost their jobs, and those people need Hispanic doctors,” he said.
Salas was born in Fresno, California, to Mexican immigrants who earned their living picking fruit from the time they came to the United States almost four decades ago.
“At the age of 18 I too worked in the fields, picking grapes and leaving them to dry on paper strips between the rows. Three weeks later we would go back to collect the raisins they had turned into,” he said last Friday after giving a patient a physical exam at UCLA’s teaching hospital.
Salas, who together with 159 fellow students will graduate on June 3, said that in his class there are about 10 Hispanics.
“I know very well the medical needs of farm workers, who when they get sick have no medical insurance nor any doctors available who can treat them in their language or who understand their culture,” he says.
Census Bureau figures show Hispanics represent roughly 15.1 percent of a total U.S. population of around 308 million, but according to the American Medical Association, only 5 percent of physicians in the United States are Latino.
Karlos Orgel, 29, another son of Mexican immigrants about to graduate as a doctor, is about to attain his ambition of working with Hispanic patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he will begin on June 24.
“The reason I’m going to be a doctor is because in my family we are five brothers, and I always wanted to understand from a medical point of view why the three youngest are deaf – that’s why I studied neurological sciences and then took a doctorate in medicine,” he tells Efe.
“Speaking English and Spanish can be a big help in low-income communities, but I also speak a third language, because to talk with my brothers I learned American Sign Language, so I’ll be able to speak with patients who can only communicate in sign language,” he said.
Jose Luis Ocampo, whose parents emigrated from Mexico to work in California factories, told Efe that for the next three years he will be working at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“I’m going to use my profession to help whoever needs me, people who get no aid from the government and the less fortunate including Hispanics. I feel a commitment to help them and it is with them I want to work,” he says. EFE