Prevalence and quality of medical Spanish education in US osteopathic medical schools: a national survey

Kally Dey, BA; Sinibaldo Romero Arocha, BS; Yoon Soo Park, PhD; and Pilar Ortega, MD, MGM
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: May 5, 2023

Accepted: January 3, 2024

Published: February 29, 2024

  • Kally Dey, BA, 

    Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Midwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA

  • Sinibaldo Romero Arocha, BS, 

    University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN, USA

  • Yoon Soo Park, PhD, 

    Department of Medical Education, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA

  • Pilar Ortega, MD, MGM, 

    Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Chicago, IL, USA


Context: Spanish is the language in the United States with the greatest language-concordant physician deficit. Allopathic medical Spanish programs have proliferated, but the national prevalence of medical Spanish education at osteopathic medical schools has never been evaluated.

Objectives: The objectives of this study are to describe the medical Spanish educational landscape at US osteopathic schools and evaluate program adherence to previously established basic standards.

Methods: Between March and October 2022, surveys were sent to all 44 member schools of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). For nonrespondents, data were obtained from publicly available websites. Primary surveys were sent to deans or diversity, equity, and inclusion officers at each osteopathic school to determine whether medical Spanish was offered and to identify a medical Spanish leader. Medical Spanish leaders received the secondary survey. The main measures of this study were the prevalence of medical Spanish programs at osteopathic schools and the extent to which existing programs met each of the four basic standards: having a faculty educator, providing a curricular structure, assessing learner skills, and awarding institutional course credit.

Results: We gathered medical Spanish information from 90.9 % (40/44) of osteopathic schools. Overall, 88.6 % (39/44) offered medical Spanish, of which 66.7 % (26/39) had formal curricula, 43.6 % (17/39) had faculty educators, 17.9 % (7/39) assessed learner skills, and 28.2 % (11/39) provided course credit. Only 12.8 % (5/39) of osteopathic schools with medical Spanish programs met all basic standards. Urban/suburban schools were likelier to offer medical Spanish than rural schools (p=0.020). Osteopathic schools in states with the highest Spanish-speaking populations were more likely to offer student-run initiatives (p=0.027).

Conclusions: Most osteopathic schools provide medical Spanish education, but work is needed to improve consistency, quality, and sustainability. Future research should focus on osteopathic student language proficiency assessment, improve medical Spanish accessibility for students at rural programs, and explore the unique content areas of osteopathic medical Spanish education.

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