MIT’s ActLingual student group had a novel request for Prehealth Advising: Could MIT offer a medical interpreting class for bilingual students? The CAPD team took up the challenge. In January, Prehealth Advising launched and helped subsidize an intensive IAP course for 24 students to become certified medical interpreters. The class, which met four days a week throughout IAP, was taught and facilitated by Lisa Morris, the Director of Cultural Initiatives at UMass Medical School.
Medical interpreters bridge the communication gap between patients with limited English and healthcare clinicians by providing linguistically and culturally appropriate verbal translation. A certified medical interpreter receives training in medical terminology in the target language, standards of practice, and code of ethics.
As ActLingual’s leader, junior Victor Damptey, says, “Language barriers impede equitable access to medical care. By utilizing their language abilities as medical interpreters, MIT students can make a direct impact on healthcare issues. In addition to achieving certification, I hope that the participants gain a cultural awareness for the members of the surrounding community. I am grateful to Aleshia Carlsen-Bryan and the other team members for their time, receptiveness, and effort in helping bring this project to fruition.”
First-year student Maria Hernandez Torres agrees. She acted as an informal medical interpreter for Spanish-speaking families when she interned at a pediatrics clinic. “When I heard about the medical interpreting class, I knew I wanted to take it because I found interpreting an empowering experience to help others; however, it is also one where technical training is imperative,” she says.
Prehealth Advising anticipates these students will acquire important cultural competency skills and can volunteer as interpreters in community health settings. Such opportunities are especially valuable for prehealth students as they need clinical experience for their medical school applications.
— Julia Mongo, Prehealth Advising