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Increasing the Number of Spanish-Speaking Orthopaedics Providers

A University of Miami Miller School of Medicine orthopaedic surgeon wants to erode the barriers of entry to his profession for historically underrepresented groups.

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Surgeon in the operating room performing knee reconstruction.
Victor H. Hernandez, M.D., believes Hispanics will soon be better represented in the field of orthopaedics.

There is a need for more Hispanic and Spanish-speaking orthopaedic practices and staff in the United States. Only 3% in the specialty are Hispanic, compared to about 19% of the U.S. population.

One of the main strategies to fix this underrepresentation is introducing medical students to the specialty, said Victor H. Hernandez, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and chief of the Division of Arthroplasty and Adult Joint Reconstruction at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Strategies for Attracting Hispanic Orthopaedics Providers

Dr. Hernandez and others wrote an opinion piece with strategies to increase Hispanic representation and decrease the significant barriers to care for Spanish-speaking patients, published online in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. An American Association of Latino Orthopaedic Surgeons board member, Dr. Hernandez has mentored many orthopaedics students and residents.

Orthopaedic surgery has been a competitive career choice for years.

“It’s not easy to become an orthopedic surgeon. It is one of the most difficult specialties,” said Dr. Hernandez. “It was pretty much closed for the Hispanic population. It was low for all minorities, and women had a very small representation.”

Mentoring Encourages Underrepresented Populations to Orthopaedics

Efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across all medical specialties is helping, but there is still a long way to go.

Dr. Victor Hernandez
Dr. Hernandez points to mentoring students as an effective way to introduce the possibility of orthopaedics as a profession.

“That’s why I am mentoring all these kids, even pre-med school,” Dr. Hernandez said. “To try to get them exposed and show them that orthopaedics is a field that is not out of reach.”

Dr. Hernandez also advocates for encouraging more female Hispanic medical students to consider orthopaedic surgery, as women are also underrepresented in the field. Patricia Rodarte, the lead author of the opinion piece and an M.D. candidate at Brown University, is a perfect example of the success that can follow such encouragement.

Dr. Hernandez also sees increased Hispanic participation in orthopaedics as a way to improve patients’ relationships with their care team. If physicians speak the patient’s native language, that patient will feel more at ease receiving care.

“That could go a long way toward reassuring and creating rapport with Hispanic patients about to undergo orthopaedic care,” Dr. Hernandez said.

Looking forward, Dr. Hernandez is confident the specialty he chose is moving to reflect the demographics of the United States more closely.

“The future is going to be more balanced,” he said.

Tags: Diversity & Inclusion, Dr. Victor H. Hernandez, Orthopaedic surgery, USNWR Ortho