Primero de Octubre: A Day to Celebrate ALL Latino Physicians
The First Day of October ("El Primero de Octubre") was established in 2022 as a day of recognition for ALL physicians of Hispanic Origin. National Latino(a) Physician Day (NLPD), the "brainchild" of Dr. Michael Galvez and Dr. Cesar Padilla, is a day designed to raise awareness of the importance of having more Latinos and Latinas in medicine. By 2050 it is estimated that 1 out of every 3 Americans will be of Hispanic heritage.
It was by pure serendipity that I even discovered that October 1st was a day to celebrate ME, a Latina Physician in Medicine. I was tagged in a “Latinas in Medicine” social media post that wished me a “Happy National LatinX Physician Day,” and along with learning about the new holiday I discovered that I was not alone in finding the term “LatinX” annoying.
Out of the Mouth of Babes
I thought that my disdain for the gender-neutral “LatinX” was due to me being a crotchety aging “Baby Boomer,” but was delighted to discover that teenager Evan Odegard Pereira shared my feelings towards the term in his award-winning NY Times Student Editorial essay titled “For Most Latinos, LatinX Does Not Mark the Spot.” I agree with Pereira who writes “Latinx doesn’t work as an ethnic label mainly because it’s not even embraced by the community it describes… only 3 percent of U.S. Latinos use the term. Most haven’t heard of it, and those who have overwhelmingly reject it. Many of us find Latinx confusing or culturally offensive.”
I shared a few laughs with some similarly-minded ‘comadres y compadres’ in the comments (my favorites were “EFF OFF with that damned term…I hate it. Asshats need to speak with REAL Hispanics,” “I am going to start calling non-Latinos GringX,” and “How are Latinos supposed to pronounce the word…is it “Latin-EX” or is it “Latinks”?”
TWO Important Lessons
In all seriousness, though, I learned TWO very important facts from that serendipitous social media "tag" that I had not previously known. The first is that there is a NEWLY-invented more culturally-appropriate word slated to replace “Latinx” and that is the word “LATINE” (at least according to the article “Stop Using ‘LatinX’ if You Really Want to Be Inclusive”).
The second important fact is that the first National Latino/Latina Physician Day (NLPD) was celebrated on October 1, 2022. We have Dr. Michael Galvez and Dr. Cesar Padilla to thank for spearheading the idea to start celebrating NLPD across the nation.
Dos Amigos Get It Done
Michael Galvez, M.D.
Dr. Michael Galvez spent a good part of his teenage years breakdancing and “hanging out,” not getting the kind of grades in high school that would easily pave the way for him to be considered “medical school material.” His Peruvian born grandfather, a pediatric surgeon, inspired him to have an interest in medicine, but Michael spent his childhood without health insurance and with very limited exposure to anyone who worked in healthcare. His parents had raised him to have a good work ethic, and he spent most of his early work life in the retail and fast food industries. It wasn’t until he started attending Diablo Valley College that he was able to turn his life and career goals around. A job working in a genome sequencing lab and the small class size and personalized teaching style at DVC gave Michael the opportunity to “start over.” He excelled academically during his two years at Diablo Valley and transferred to UC Berkeley, where he graduated with a degree in molecular and cell biology. Inspired by his own tumultuous elementary and high school experience, he helped to start a volunteer mentorship and tutoring program at Berkeley for the area’s underserved middle school children. After graduating from Berkeley, Michael spent two years shadowing physicians and working at research facilities at University of California in San Francisco before applying and being accepted to medical school at Stanford University (where he stayed for his six year plastic and reconstructive surgery residency). Two more fellowships followed his formal training (a Hand Surgery Fellowship at University of Washington, and a Pediatric Hand Surgery Fellowship at Scottish Rite in Dallas Texas) before settling down as an Attending Pediatric Hand Surgeon at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, California. Dr. Galvez has never forgotten his humble beginnings and is passionate about promoting access to healthcare for EVERYONE, especially the under and uninsured.
Cesar Padilla, M.D.
Dr. Cesar Padilla is a first-generation Mexican American from Northern California. His parents emigrated from Mexico in the 1970s to United States, where they worked in local factories. Cesar spent almost every summer of his childhood in Mexico, where he first dreamt of becoming a doctor. His life in the US was very different from the summers spent in his parents' homeland. He grew up surrounded by gang violence in the U.S and Cesar almost dropped out of high school at age 15. To make up for failing grades, Cesar started attending adult (continuation) school when he was 16 and managed to graduate high school on time. After graduating from high school, he attended Ohlone Community College in Fremont where he first learned about SUMMA, the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance. He attended his first SUMMA conference at age 19. The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Padilla is now double fellowship trained from Harvard Medical School in critical care medicine and obstetric anesthesiology, with additional training in critical care echocardiography. His research interests include critical care in obstetrics and addressing inequities in maternal/obstetric care. Dr. Padilla also serves as the Chief Medical Education Advisor for Alliance in Mentorship/MiMentor.
Drs. Padilla and Galvez have been working tirelessly to get the word out about NLPD. Their efforts to increase awareness about the importance of Latinos in Medicine is impressive, and reinforced for me the importance of Physician Outlook Magazine, the physician lifestyle publication I created. Like the famous "Kevin Bacon Six Degrees of Separation" parlor game, we are all more connected than we realize, and it sometimes takes the power of human connectedness to effect change.
Why Do We Need More "Latine" Physicians?
With projections that within the next 3 decades 50% of all Americans will be of Hispanic origin, it is more important than ever to have Latinos better represented in ALL fields of Medicine, particularly as team leaders. Significant healthcare barriers, inequalities and poorer outcomes in our rapidly growing Latino/Hispanic patient communities can be addressed by ensuring that more Latinos go to Medical and Osteopathic Schools to become physicians, as it is doctors who are the natural leaders of healthcare teams. As of 2020 there are an estimated 2.2 million Hispanic US healthcare workers. Most of these healthcare workers are Health Aides (390,600) and Nurses (327,600), with only 57,000 being physicians. There are an estimated 21,00 Emergency Medical Technicians.
ALL of these are important members of the team, and I am glad that Hispanics are well-represented in a variety of roles, but we will continue to experience disparities if we do not encourage more young adults to become doctors. I cannot find accurate statistics for Latino Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. They, too, are very important components of well-functioning team-based care teams, BUT should not be confused with physicians, who undergo a very specialized, rigorous, standardized form of training. California’s AB890, passed during the COVID19 pandemic, allows Nurse Practitioners to practice COMPLETELY independently, as if they attended medical school and completed residencies. This, in my personal opinion, is VERY DANGEROUS, and not in any way, shape or form, a sound solution to a very complex problem. Beginning January 1, 2023, California patients may unknowingly be “cared for” by nurse practitioners who are, in many circumstances, permitted to practice independently from physicians.
Which Airline Do YOU Want To Fly?
Imagine if the FAA allowed pilot trainees to obtain “Full Pilot” certification to fly commercial jets because of a pilot shortage? All would be well until the first major crash or near catastrophe. As I wrote in an article for Hispanic Outlook on Education back in October 2019, “When an individual boards an airplane, the expectation is that the pilot is the “captain” of the aircraft, and that s/he has been through years of rigorous training. We don’t allow shoddily online/flight simulator-trained flight attendants to be dubbed “Advance Practice Pilots” to replace actual pilots. The practice of Medicine is much more complex than flying a plane. It is a team-based Physician-led art form that works best when the Patient and Physician are at the center of the relationship. Nurse practitioners and Physician Assistants are important team members but are not Physicians. Insurance companies, hospital administrators and middlemen have hijacked the practice of Medicine for profit. It is time to strip them of their power and expose their dirty tactics.”
Growing Physicians From Within Their Own Communities
I have previously addressed the importance of “growing more doctors from within,” in Physician Outlook Magazine, and featured the very special story of “badass Boricua” Family Physician Dr. Talia Torres. Dr. Torres is a graduate of the seven-year City University of New York “Sophie Davis” program, but what makes her story extra special (at least for me) is that she was one of MY very first patients early on in my career as an Attending Pediatrician and she is now midway through her second year of residency. Her father, Danny Torres, a high school teacher by day, and freelance sports journalist and Mets aficionado at all other times, is her proud PuertoRican “Papi” who wrote this poignant article “My Daughter, The Doctor” about his daughter’s journey.
Back to NLPD and Primero de Octubre
I apologize for the digression, but I couldn't help myself. The reason that I started Physician Outlook Magazine is embodied within the very topic of this article. We are embroiled in an era of "information overload." As a Latina physician I should have "known" that there was a celebration being planned for Hispanic physicians. I didn't, and the only reason that I DID ultimately learn of the day is because I got tagged in a social media post where others were commiserating about how the term "LatinX" irks them. Serendipity. It is a beautiful thing.
I am convinced that one of the reasons that I was put on this beautiful earth of ours is that I am meant to CONNECT people with one another, and shine light where there is darkness. Like Drs. Padilla and Galvez, I want to do my best to UPLIFT those who are down-trodden, and I want to HELP those who do not have adequate access to healthcare.
Through the PRINT magazine version of Physician Outlook, I continue to uniquely EDUCATE those who are looking to stay off of social media.
Although it was by mere happenstance that I learned of NLPD, I couldn’t be happier to learn that National Latino/Latina Physician Day is “a thing” now, and excited to become a part of the movement.
I can’t wait to be part of the NLPD celebration in October 2023 and beyond! I know that I can help the cause by letting others know about all of the Higher Education opportunities that exist for Hispanic and other marginalized students, and by amplifying opportunities for teens who are interested in healthcare careers to explore opportunities with qualified mentors.
We at Physician Outlook Magazine will be working closely with Hispanic Outlook on Education to ensure that we get the word out about NLPD, MiMentor.Org, and all other programs that help to make the world a HEALTHIER place!
¡Sí, se puede!
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