In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of Latino/Latina physician associates/assistants, or Asociado Médicos, who have made significant strides in their field.
Paola Gonzalez, MPAS, PA-C, is the President and Chief Delegate for the Physician Associates for Latino Health (PALH), a national caucus of the AAPA. Gonzalez, who practices in Houston, Texas, is a bilingual health care provider with close to two decades of experience in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, medical offices and private practices. She has specialized in multiple fields, currently practicing in breast medical oncology and has a wealth of experience working with diverse patient populations, particularly within the Latino/Latina community.
Gonzalez is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion and believes it is important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month as a way to honor the contributions and unique experiences of the Latino/Latina community. By doing so, a deeper comprehension of culture, values and how it impacts health care outcomes can be recognized.
“El Mes de la Herencia Hispana is a time for us to celebrate and honor the rich cultural diversity and impacts of the Latino/Latina community to our society,” Gonzalez said. “As PAs, we have a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between health care providers and the Latino/Latina community and address the disparities that exist. By understanding and embracing our language, heritage and culture, we can better serve and advocate for the diverse needs of our patients.”
“It is crucial for us to continue to educate and empower health care providers on the importance of breaking down language barriers by learning medical Spanish, while also championing diversity and inclusion in the health care field,” she said.
As the number of Hispanic PAs continues to grow, so does their impact on the field. It is estimated that 7% of PAs in the U.S. are of Hispanic, Latino/Latina or Spanish origin, according to NCCPA’s 2022 Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs.
General pediatrics reported the highest percentage (11.9%) of PAs who identify as Hispanic, according to NCCPA’s 2022 Statistical Profile of Board Certified PAs by Specialty.
Mayra O. Martinez, DScPAS, MS, PA-C, is a bilingual health care provider who has a background in rural medicine and family medicine. She has dedicated herself to the field of pediatrics in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas community for the last 9 years. Martinez is the President of the Society for PAs in Pediatrics (SPAP), president-elect of PAs in Virtual Medicine and Telemedicine (PAVMT), and past-president of the Rio Grande Valley PA Society (RGVPAS).
“I am proud to represent and serve my community and work towards increasing diversity in health care,” Martinez said. “I hope to inspire other Latino/Latina individuals to pursue a career as a PA and serve their communities with compassion, cultural competence and excellence.”
During a health care visit, Martinez is able to provide more culturally competent care to her patients and their families. This is especially important for the Latino/Latina community, which is the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S.
“Speaking Spanish allows me to better serve children and their families during a health care visit. It provides a more relaxed and meaningful experience, and I can better communicate, assess their understanding, questions and needs,” said Martinez.
There are many opportunities for physician assistants to learn more about Latino/Latina culture and health disparities. For anyone interested in learning more about the PAs for Latino Health organization and their support for Pre-PA students and PA students, visit palh.mypanetwork.com.
¡Adelante, que juntos todo podemos!