The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) recently launched its Latinx Advisory Council to provide a forum for Latinx physicians and their assistants to support each other. The forum serves as a platform for Latinx professionals to develop advocacy strategies and recruit additional Latinx physicians.
Katina Rue, DO, is co-Chair of the WSMA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and serves as an advocate for under-represented physicians. She discusses several benefits the council offers Latinx physicians in this Q&A.
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State of Reform: Can you discuss some of the motivations behind establishing the Latinx Advisory Council?
Katina Rue: “The Latinx community is the largest racial/ethnic minority in Washington state and is one of the fastest growing ethnic communities. At the same time, Latinx physician numbers are declining relative to the growing population. The social and health system inequities experienced by our Latinx community in Washington have been exacerbated by the lack of bicultural and bilingual Latinx physicians in the state. The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted these inequities.
The Washington State Latino Physician Workforce Study, supported and funded by the state legislature, clearly demonstrated the shortage of Latinx physicians in our state. As an extension of that work, Dr. Leo Morales and his team from the University of Washington Latino Center for Health approached the WSMA about establishing a space for Latinx physicians to come together within the WSMA.
At [a] WSMA House of Delegates meeting, policy brought forth by Dr. Morales and others was passed that established the Latinx Advisory Council. The WSMA became a pathway by which the existing Latinx physicians in our state could connect to support each other professionally and inform advocacy within the WSMA. It has been an engaging space for members to discuss shared lived experience.”
SOR: Have you heard comments from fellow physicians about the need to establish programs like the Latinx Advisory Council?
KR: “Since the launch of the Latinx Advisory Council within the WSMA, WSMA President Dr. Mika Sinanan has appointed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee co-chaired by Dr. John Vassall and myself. Since its inception, several other under-represented physician groups have discussed the possibility of having their own unique spaces to come together around their individual and collective shared lived experiences and those unique perspectives they share.
The Latinx Advisory Council has been a leading edge of what I hope will become the nexus of several additional affinity groups or councils within the WSMA, each with the intention to support unique lived experiences and provide an avenue for advocacy within the WSMA.”
SOR: What are some of the key benefits the council offers physicians?
KR: “Key benefits of the council include [offering a] space to be and feel included. As a Latinx physician, there are unique challenges we face that our non-minority physicians don’t.
Having a community where we can share our struggles and triumphs and build bonds across the state has been a tremendous support, especially in the current health care environment which is burning out physicians at alarming rates. This shared space allows Latinx physicians to come together to advocate for their patients in a way that others without lived experience cannot.”
SOR: How can the council help recruit additional Latinx physicians?
KR: “The WSMA’s vision is to make Washington the best place to practice medicine and for patients to receive care. We do that through strong physician leadership and advocacy to shape the future of medicine and advance quality care for all Washingtonians.
WSMA’s vision and mission can be bolstered by the development of a strong, diverse physician workforce that looks like, sounds like, and understands the patients they serve. By demonstrating a commitment to supporting diverse physicians in our state, via the Latinx Council and future councils or affinity groups, and by our dedication to foster pipeline development through the WSMA Foundation and other aspects of WSMA’s advocacy work, we hope to bring and keep Latinx physicians in the association who understand our growing Latinx population in the state.
Having a space to belong [to] and to be understood, and a mechanism to advocate for change will appeal to Latinx physicians looking for a place to live and serve patients.”
This Q&A was edited for clarity and length.