Doctors in a town near Los Angeles known as Bell Gardens have an average of over 150 times more patients than their Beverly Hills counterparts. They’re cramped; they’re paid less and their community needs more of them.
Los Curanderos, a sub-committee of El Congreso, hopes to change that with its 13th-annual “Healing Our Communities” conference Saturday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. in Broida 1610. The conference is predominantly intended for high school students from Ventura County and is aimed at introducing young minority students to the healthcare field.
“We want to help minority students learn about the health profession and let them know that the possibility is there,” Los Curanderos Co-Chair Michelle Toscano said. “The aim of the conference is the aim of the organization – more diversity in the health care profession.”
Throughout the year, Los Curanderos serves as a support group for UCSB students interested in healthcare professions. Students can receive advice on their studies, learn about the different medical fields, or attend lectures by guest speakers, Los Curanderos Co-Chair Carlos O’Bryan-Becerra said.
The purpose of the conference is twofold, Los Curanderos Mesa Representative Karina Cuamea said. The first objective is to encourage minority students to go into a medical profession. Often these students have been “put down” because of their race or financial circumstances, and need inspiration from speakers and students who have beaten those same odds, Cuamea said.
“The conference is needed for students who think it’s impossible to go to college or become a doctor because of their background,” Cuamea said. “We want to reiterate that it can be done; that they can do it.”
The second goal of the conference is to educate students about the overwhelming need for health professionals in underrepresented communities. Toscano said alerting young minorities of the significant shortage of physicians may inspire them to return to their communities to help out.
“We know that in areas like Beverly Hills there is a ratio of one doctor to every 175 patients,” she said. “In areas like Bell Gardens, the ratio is more like one doctor to every 27,000 patients. The pay is less in crowded areas like that, and we need more physicians that are willing to go back to their communities to work in those under-served areas and help out those people.”
The expected attendance of the conference is estimated to reach over 200 this year; a substantial increase from last year’s 50, O’Bryan-Becerra said. The increase is a result of a $5,000 budget increase, and more effective efforts from high school counselors and outreach coordinators, he said.
Several professionals from various medical fields and a panel of UCLA medical students are included in this year’s conference. The first keynote speaker, Dr. Iris Casta