ANAIS AURORA BADIA opened her Fort Myers dermatology office when the Hispanic community was still relatively small in this corner of Florida. Thirteen years later, Florida Skin Center has seen 49,000 patients walk through the door. Around 10 percent of her patients now are Hispanic. As a Latina woman, Badia, 47, who is a fifth-generation physician, is part of a still-small demographic in her profession.
This, despite a great need for more diversity in a profession that’s more urgently needed as more Americans move to the Sunbelt states and more Hispanic Americans fall victim to melanoma.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 85 percent of Hispanic women do not check their skin for abnormalities, despite that nearly half regularly sunbathe. After Badia finished her residency in Albany, New York, she went looking for a place to set up a dermatol – ogy office.
As a first-generation Cuban-American with ties to Miami (she earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and medical degree from Nova Southeastern University), she investigated locations in Southwest Florida. “There wasn’t anyone who was bilin – gual, even though at that time it wasn’t as important to speak both languages,” she says. “There also weren’t as many female dermatologists.”
She picked up the phone and started calling Fort Myers dermatology offices asking for waiting times. They were four months, six months. Bingo. As Southwest Florida grew, so did her practice. But she’s still only one of three people who see patients in her office. They greet about 450 people per week and are “consis – tently busy.” A good portion of her 23-member staff is bilingual and comes from Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Nicaraguan and Indian families.
To reach even more of the Hispanic population, Badia recently opened a second office in Cape Coral. “I feel very lucky to have the practice that I have, and I feel like the only reason I’m able to do everything I can and have everything I have is because of the community,” she says.