In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, USACS hospital medicine physician, Miguel Villagra, MD, FACP, FHM, offered to share his insights and first-hand cultural knowledge for the benefit of our community. Dr. Villagra has been with USACS since 2018, beginning with a legacy group, and is a dedicated hospitalist at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center in Carson City, NV. He is a native of Managua, Nicaragua and came to the United States for his internal medicine training in 2009.
In his local patient community, where 30% of the population is Hispanic, Dr. Villagra has become a fierce advocate for his fellow community members, taking action by sitting on the board of directors for the Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare system and becoming a member of the Hispanic Medical Association.
“My Hispanic heritage represents my soul and my spirit,” said Dr. Villagra. “Many people don’t realize the vast diversity within the Hispanic community. Spanish is our common language but there are a lot of language differences that we need to account for to develop effective communication with our patients. I hope to help educate others about treating Hispanic patients so we can continue to improve patient care.
As for the USACS community, Dr. Villagra has taken on the role of being the leader for our La Familia employee resource group where he hopes to connect with other Hispanic USACS physicians, APPs, and MSO employees and those who are interested in learning more about Hispanic culture.
“I am really looking forward to leading this group so we can continue to build engagement and awareness for the Hispanic community within our organization,” said Dr. Villagra. “We already have a few great ideas and projects we want to implement, so I am excited to see the impact and changes we make in the near future.”
Below is an excerpt from Dr. Villagra’s blog which hosts a series of informative posts ranging in topics from the importance of embracing cultural factors when treating Hispanic/Latino populations to accepting and addressing physician burnout.
Here are five suggestions for healthcare providers to be aware of when taking care of Hispanic/Latino patients:
1. Cultural Sensitivity and Language Services: Be culturally sensitive and aware of the diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and practices within the Hispanic/Latino community. Recognize that cultural factors may influence health behaviors, attitudes toward healthcare, and treatment preferences. Provide language services, such as professional interpreters or translated materials, to ensure effective communication with patients who may have limited English proficiency.
2. Health Literacy: Recognize that health literacy levels can vary among Hispanic/Latino patients. Use clear, simple language and avoid medical jargon. Provide written materials in both English and Spanish, ensuring they are culturally appropriate and easy to understand. Encourage patients to ask questions and actively participate in their healthcare decision-making process.
3. Family Influence and Social Support: Understand the significance of family influence in patient care, try to emphasize the importance of family and close social networks within the Hispanic/Latino culture. Involve family members and support systems in the patient’s care, as they may play crucial roles in healthcare decision-making and adherence to treatment plans.
4. Access to Care and Health Disparities: Be aware of the barriers that Hispanic/Latino patients may face in accessing healthcare services. These barriers can include lack of health insurance, limited transportation, language barriers, and fear or mistrust of the healthcare system. Try to address these disparities by providing culturally sensitive care, promoting health education, and connecting patients with community resources and support networks. Social worker assistance is recommended.
5. Disease Prevalence and Risk Factors: Familiarize yourself with prevalent health conditions and risk factors within the Hispanic/Latino population. Some examples include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and mental health conditions. Tailor preventive screenings, health promotion efforts, and treatment plans accordingly. Consider cultural beliefs and traditional therapies that may influence patients’ health-seeking behaviors and integrate them into treatment discussions when appropriate.
Remember, these suggestions serve as general guidelines, and it’s essential to approach each patient as an individual with unique needs and circumstances. Building rapport, active listening, and fostering trust are vital components of providing high-quality, patient-centered care to Hispanic/Latino individuals.
For the full post and additional resources, please visit Dr. Villagra’s blog site HERE.