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Case Study

How Family Care Specialists built a pipeline to increase workforce diversity

15 Minute Read


    The challenge

    In 1988, leaders at Family Care Specialists (FCS) Medical Group wanted to address the underrepresentation of Latinx (a gender-neutral term for people of Latino origin) people in health professions and leadership roles in East Los Angeles, California, while also addressing the local shortage of health professionals. At the time, Latinx people made up 80% of the local population but only 8% of physicians. The physician-to-patient ratio was 1:3,700, making the locality a federal Critical Health Professions Shortage Area.

    The organization

    FCS Medical Group has a high-quality safety net practice with four locations and over 120 staff, an independent physician association (FCS IPA) with a network of more than 340 physicians, and a family medicine residency program at Adventist Health White Memorial (AHWM) Medical Center, a safety net hospital. FCS serves 30,000 people in East Los Angeles. FCS operates health workforce programs to increase diversity, ensure placement of graduates in underserved areas, and develop future leaders.

    The approach

    In 1988, FCS established a family medicine residency program to recruit and retain graduates in medically underserved communities. FCS also partnered with local high schools, colleges, and community organizations to establish a health professions pipeline to support underrepresented minority students in pursuing clinical roles. FCS links students with academic enrichment programs, research opportunities, meaningful employment, and mentorship, among other supports.

    The result

    FCS has graduated 226 physicians from the AHWM family medicine residency program, 67% of whom resulted directly or indirectly from their pipeline program and 65% of whom identify as underrepresented minorities (URMs). And 30% of those graduates are in leadership positions. Health plans, medical groups, and health systems look to FCS as an exemplar in developing workforce programs to increase diversity in the medical professions and address physician shortages. FCS was the winner of Advisory Board’s 2021 Innovation Showcase: Strategies to Advance Diversity for their workforce development programs.



    How FCS established a health professions pipeline so they could grow their own clinicians and leaders

    In response to a critical physician shortage and a desire to increase Latinx representation in the clinical workforce, FCS established a family medicine residency and health professions pipeline to support students from high school to residency to medical practice and equip them with advocacy skills to serve as physician leaders after residency.


    The five components

    FCS health professions pipeline has been in the works for over 30 years. These five components constitute the keys to their approach since 1988.

    • Component

      Establish family medicine residency program to train new doctors

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    • Component

      Build school partnerships to grow the health professions pipeline

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    • Component

      Establish community partnerships to support students’ non-clinical needs

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    • Component

      Stay in touch with students to track outcomes

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    • Component

      Demonstrate value to potential funders to cement financial sustainability

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    How we know it’s working

    To date, FCS has trained 226 graduates in the AHWM family medicine residency program with:

    • 65% identifying as underrepresented minorities (URM)
    • 67% directly or indirectly resulting from the FCS pipeline, including six former high school students
    • 70% working in medically underserved areas
    • 19% remaining in the local East LA community
    • 30% holding leadership positions in health care

    The 2021-2022 cohort of 24 resident physicians is 50% Latinx, 30% Asian/Pacific Islander, 8% African American, and 12% White, and their two chief residents are Latinx women. FCS Medical Group now numbers 29 primary care providers—62% are of Latinx descent and 45% are women.

    Health plans and systems look to FCS as an exemplar in developing programs to increase diversity in the medical professions and address physician shortages. FCS won Advisory Board’s 2021 Innovation Showcase: Strategies to Advance Diversity for their efforts to advance representation in clinical and leadership roles in health care.

    What’s next

    In 2022, FCS plans to partner with the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture for a “Minority Physician Pathway to the C-Suite” project to expand the impact of their program with a focus on leadership development.

    In January 2022, health care services and technology company Altais, a subsidiary of Blue Shield of California, finalized an agreement to acquire FCS. Altais aims to learn from FCS’ cost-effective, high-quality model of caring for low-income patients. Altais will provide capital support and a suite of technological tools, including those that will bridge the digital divide for their patients. FCS’ six founding physicians will continue to lead the group.

    Supporting artifact

    Resources required to support student programs

    The table below offers an overview of the resources required to run FCS’ health professions pipeline activities. While not all of these resources are mandatory to start a similar model, these resources should be seen as goals for sustaining a similar approach.

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