Bilingual Belizean Doctor a Hero Abroad

Not too many people know how to talk two different languages and if we break it down even further scarcely any doctor speak both Spanish and English. A study in California  has revealed that the lack of speaking multiple languages is becoming an issue in the health department. For Dr. Blanca Campos, a native of Belize, things are a bit different. With the fortune of knowing two different languages she can help a wider population of patients.

As California’s Latino population grows, so too does the need for doctors who speak fluent Spanish and who understand the Latino culture. Yet proportionately, few Latinos graduate from medical schools in California, and that’s created a void that threatens care to Spanish-speaking populations. But UCLA’s School of Medicine has a solution in it's novel International Medical Graduate's (IMG) program.

Dr. Blanca Campos was among the first to complete the program. For the past six months, she's spent her days seeing patients at the Wilmington Family Health Center. Most of her patients are Spanish-speakers who struggle with English, if they can speak it at all.
"Most of them are illegal, some are legal," Campos says. "Most of them don’t have jobs. You’ll see a lot of patients who have lost their insurances and are looking for clinics like this to help them with their basic needs."

Campos, 38, is a native of Belize. She’s among more than three dozen native Spanish-speaking medical school graduates hand-picked by UCLA to help fill California’s shortage of bilingual and bi-cultural Latino doctors. The UCLA program, offered through the university’s School of Family Medicine, is the only one in the nation to address the linguistic and cultural barriers that stand between most US doctors and their Latino patients.

Campos says Spanish-speaking doctors are key to bringing quality medical care to the state's underserved communities, "because we understand how they grow up; we understand certain terminology that they use in Spanish that may not be in medical books, but we’ve heard it before and we understand what it means."

Without doctors like Campos, the aches and pains that lead to clinic visits can get lost in translation. And that often results in wasted dollars and poor medical care for many native-Spanish speakers.

"It leads to misdiagnosis and misunderstanding and errors and often a tremendous amount of over-testing," says Dr. Patrick Dowling, chairman of UCLA’s Department of Family Medicine. Six years ago, he started the IMG program that operates solely on private grants and donations. The program provides stipends for resident doctors as they study for their U-S medical exams. In exchange, the doctors commit to practicing medicine for up to three years in California’s low-income communities.
UCLA program brings Latino doctors to underserved areas



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