Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante

Dr. Bustamante, Associate Professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, spoke on Cal-IHEA’s recent panel “Addressing the Latino Physician Shortage”(link is external) and presented the key findings of his policy toolkit, “How to Expand Health Care Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants”(link is external). In the toolkit, Dr. Bustamante utilizes research evidence to emphasize the utility of local and state policies in expanding coverage to undocumented communities. We asked Dr. Bustamante a few questions about his background and thoughts on health equity in light of COVID-19 and moving forward. 

June 11, 2020

How has your background shaped your research goals?

My background and previous experience inspired me to focus on health equity research with a focus on U.S. Latinos/Hispanics and Immigrants.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your professional trajectory?

The main challenge is to balance multiple research projects in order to deliver timely findings for policy action.

What are the biggest challenges to implementing equity-focused policy and expanding health care coverage in underserved and marginalized communities?

Attract the interest of funders and policy makers. In other words, bringing equity-focused policy issues to the top of the policy agenda.

In particular, how is COVID-19 exacerbating the limited access to healthcare among undocumented immigrant communities?  

To the exclusion and poor access to care that undocumented immigrants faced before COVID, they now faced a higher risk of contracting the virus due to the nature of their jobs, and economic challenges for those immigrants who have lost their jobs and are ineligible for public support programs. 

Which aspects of access to health care often go overlooked in Latino/ Hispanic communities?

There are multiple challenges such as the Latino physician shortage, access to care, lack of health insurance eligibility and coverage, new “public charge” regulations that would discourage enrollment in public programs, just to mention a few. 

What is the biggest message you hope policy-makers take from your recent toolkit, “How to Expand Health Care Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants”?

I hope it pictures a roadmap for state and local authorities to identify policy options to deliver health care to undocumented taking into account local political and economic realities.

What is the best advice you have received? (or can be framed as, what advice would you give to your younger self?)

Breath, stay healthy and keep working.