An Omaha-based medical center is committed to reducing the disparity of Latino doctors
Founded in 1991, South Omaha Medical Associates (SOMA) has been on a mission for over 30 years.
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Finding bilingual doctors is a common challenge for non-English speaking Latinos and Hispanics nationwide.
According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, Latinos account for about 7% of the overall physician and surgeon workforce in the U.S.
With the Latino and Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. continuing to grow, the need for bilingual doctors is critically important.
In 1991, two Latino doctors — Dr. Fernando and Priscilla Correa — founded South Omaha Medical Associates (SOMA) to offer family health to bilingual communities in Omaha, Nebraska.
Fast forward to today, and SOMA is one of the longest-established fully bilingual health clinics in Omaha.
In a recent interview with 6NEWS, Dr. Priscilla Correa detailed the decision to open the clinic more than 30 years ago.
“We thought there was a lot of need for us,” she said. “We were one of the first ones that came to Omaha that spoke Spanish, there was no one else.”
According to U.S. Census data, the Latino population in Omaha was about 94,000, which represented about 2.9% of the city’s overall population.
In the most recent Census in 2020, the Latino population in Omaha was recorded at 14.5%, representing a nearly 500% increase over three decades.
Originally from Ecuador, since Dr. Priscilla Correa arrived in Omaha, she has immersed herself in the local culture of the Spanish-speaking Latinos to understand their unique healthcare needs and challenges.
“Meeting different doctors from different countries that speak Spanish, that’s a way we tried to refer patients that speak Spanish,” she said.
However, overcoming the language barrier is one of the biggest roadblocks the founders have faced over the years.
From there, the goal became to increase the number of Latino Spanish-speaking physicians on SOMA’s staff.
“It’s been challenging finding providers that are multilingual,” Dr. Christian Correa, vice president of SOMA, told 6NEWS.
With an eye toward the younger generation, he noted that SOMA is actively recruiting bilingual medical students from Creighton University and the College of St. Mary.
“We are here to help them as much as we can,” Correa concluded.
SOMA hopes to expand its clinic in West Omaha to reach more of the area's Latino, Spanish-speaking and bilingual communities.