In 1988, six board-certified Latinx family physicians co-founded Family Care Specialists (FCS) Medical Group to improve the quality of care available in East Los Angeles (East LA).
At the time, the community of East LA numbered 800,000 people. Eighty percent were Latinx, 50% spoke only Spanish, and 33% of adults were uninsured. The community was designated a federal Critical Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). A primary care (HPSA) is defined by the National Health Service Corps (a division of the U.S. government agency Health Resources and Services Administration) as having a population-to-provider ratio of at least 3,500 to 1. In 1988, the population-to-provider ratio in East LA was 3,700 to 1. Before FCS was founded, the region had only one board-certified family physician.
The FCS co-founders saw an opportunity to help address the shortage of board-certified family physicians, primary care nurse practitioners, and physician associates in underserved areas and simultaneously improve representation of racial/ethnic minorities in health care.
The co-founders of FCS grew up in East LA. Their own educational journeys exposed them to the value of peer support, advocacy, academic enrichment programs, and financial aid for disadvantaged students. This made them uniquely positioned to take on this mission.
In 1988, FCS established a family medicine residency program at Adventist Health White Memorial (AHWM), a safety net hospital, to train residents and primary care clinicians.
AHWM sponsors the residency and contracts FCS to run the program. FCS’ Family Health Center serves as the outpatient training site for the residency program. FCS physicians serve as program director and associate program directors for the residency program.
The AHWM Family Medicine Residency Program (FMRP) equips graduates to work in medically underserved areas, focusing on delivering culturally and linguistically competent services to vulnerable populations. The curriculum also includes leadership development, including learning through hospital committees, community partnerships, health policy work, and business situations.
The residency program’s charter class came from UC Davis School of Medicine, the alma mater of one of FCS’ founders. In following few years, the residents worked alongside the program directors to recruit classes of socially conscious young doctors from mostly California-based medical schools.
Alongside the residency program, FCS’ co-founders established the department of family medicine at AHWM. This served as the academic arm to support the residency program and helped recruit sub-specialists across the organization to teach the residents. FCS’ medical director serves as the chair of the family medicine department.
In 1996, FCS established its own Independent Practice Association (IPA) to contract with other primary care physicians—many of whom are graduates of the AHWM FMRP—and additional specialists to improve access to care for its patient population and recruit additional teachers in the surrounding community.
The residency program and department laid the foundation for FCS’ work to increase access to health professions for students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups—and for those students to embark on a journey to return and serve their community as accomplished young professionals.