Making a difference

DOs respond to Latinx physician shortage by giving back

DOs are making significant strides toward building the number of Latinx physicians and improving Latinx health care.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 8, 2021, with new information.

As a Mexican-American youth growing up in Kansas City, John K. Lynch, DO, didn’t have many physician role models. It wasn’t until he entered medical school and residency training that he connected with mentors who could lend advice and help guide his career.

By 2034, the U.S. Latinx population is expected to grow by roughly 32%, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Currently, about 18% of the U.S. population is Latinx, yet just 6% of actively practicing physicians are Latinx, according to the U.S. Census and AAMC.

Education challenges, language barriers and a lack of physician mentors are major factors contributing to the Latinx doctor shortage.

In light of these obstacles, many DOs are making significant strides toward building the number of Latinx physicians and improving Latinx health care.

Why Latinx physicians are needed

“Latinx physicians have a better understanding of the culturally determined factors that impact the health of Latinx patients,” explains Dr. Lynch, the director of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education National Institutes of Health’s vascular neurology fellowship program. “They are more likely to care for Latinx communities, to provide health care to populations that are medically underserved, and to speak Spanish.”

At the NIH, Dr. Lynch has served as a program officer for the research center’s Office of Minority Health and Research, which aims to increase racial and ethnic diversity in biomedical research. Focusing on undergraduate institutions with high numbers of underserved or minority students, the program has guided more than a dozen schools through the process of developing neuroscience programs.

“Our hope is that if minority scientists come into the field, they will have an interest in focusing on minority issues or on disorders that affect minorities,” says Dr. Lynch.

As a fellowship director, Dr. Lynch has prioritized recruiting a diverse population of candidates.

“Since 2008, our trainees have included 34% women, and 18% underserved minorities, including several Latinx physicians,” he says.

Rebeccah Rodriguez Regner, DO, is also working to improve Latinx health. She serves on the health and human services advisory board for Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), a community organization that offers accessible health care to populations in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. CPLC’s services are available to everyone, but the organization has a special competence in serving the Latinx community.

Dr. Rodriguez currently lives in California but is from Peoria, Arizona, one of the communities that CPLC serves.

“I feel lucky to be still connected to my hometown and making a difference there by helping to give medically driven recommendations to various programs at CPLC,” she says.

The importance of mentorship

Dr. Rodriguez Regner is also a mentor with the Latin Medical Student Association and was the keynote speaker at the organization’s 2017 conference as its Mentor of the Year.

“Serving as a mentor to the LMSA and Latinx medical students has been very rewarding,” she says. “This experience is unique because students are able to relate to the culture and the language that we both share in order to support Latinx patients’ health, wellness and fitness.”

Peruvian-American emergency physician Alfredo Rabines, DO, has also mentored Latinx youth as a volunteer with an immigrant youth services organization in the New York area.

“It’s really tough because the basic educational system does not prepare lower-income populations for the more competitive fields of study,” says Dr. Rabines, a Peruvian-American emergency physician in Bayonne, New Jersey. “And many students are also dealing with a language barrier—it’s a double challenge.”

Related reading:

How osteopathic medical schools are fostering an anti-racist culture

What the AOA is doing to promote diversity, equity and inclusion


  1. Thomas Longfellow

    I am a bit embarrassed by what is presumably Ms. Raymond’s attempt at being politically correct. Her, or should I say ‘their’, use of ‘Latinx’ to describe the Osteopathic profession’s inclusions of Latinos into its ranks is perhaps a misplaced desire to be non exclusionary. Those who grew up primarily speaking a Latin based language know there is no insult, intended or otherwise, when describing a group of mix-sexed people as ‘latinos’.

    How is it that English speaking male and female Americans of non-Hispanic decent, or ‘gringos’, feel that it is okay to alter the way Latin based speakers have been speaking for at least a couple of thousands of years?

    Please, politically ‘enlightened’, put your well intentions away. Honor the traditions of others, though you may not appreciate them, by speaking of them as they would speak of themselves.

    Mi esposa, mi hijas, mi hijos, y yo son Latinos!

    1. Tyler Tominello

      Hi Mr. Longfellow,

      It seems that your concerns are not unfounded.

      I stumbled upon the following POLITICO article today about a poll showing how the term ‘Latinx’ is only preferred among 2% of polled Hispanic voters. In fact, 40% of respondents admitted to be offended by the term at least ‘a little’ with 20% saying they were offended ‘a lot.’

      I remembered reading this article on The DO when it was updated in October and searched it after finding these poll results. Link below!

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