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New Spanish for the Health Professions class makes impact at health fair

Students enrolled in new Spanish for the Health Professions course get real world experience

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This fall, students in Spanish 3343, Spanish for the Health Professions, got the chance to apply their lessons to real life.

They worked as translators at Feria de la Salud, a health fair geared toward Spanish speakers and Houston-area Latino communities hosted by the Houston Chapter of the American Diabetes Association and held in the Magnolia/East End neighborhood near the University of Houston.

Dr. María E. Pérez, an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies teaches the course, said it was a perfect training ground for the students.

“The objective of my course, which is a new course for our department, is the acquisition not only of medical terminology and correct grammar in Spanish, but also to develop the cultural understanding of the needs of the Hispanic community, providing the basis for effective linguistic and cross cultural communication,” she said.

The students worked from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with other UH students from the Colleges of Optometry and Pharmacy. The Spanish for the Health Professions students provided some reflections on their experiences at the fair:

“At some point during our undergraduate studies, we have all wondered when we will use the skills learned in class in real-life situations. On Saturday, October 12, 2013, I had my first big opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in Spanish 3343, Spanish for the Health Professions. In the course, I’ve learned medical terminology and vocabulary in Spanish, as well as gained a cultural understanding of the health issues affecting the Hispanic population, especially in the Houston area.  As an interpreter at a health fair sponsored by the American Diabetes Association on that Saturday, I used all the knowledge I’ve learned thus far.”

-Judith Mata, a senior double majoring in biology and Spanish.

“The lectures, vocabulary lists and sample conversations in Spanish for the Health Professions reflected many of the situations I encountered while volunteering at the health fair. The studies of the “hoja clínica” and of different ways to express advice and recommendations are extremely significant in terms of practical use and communication with patients in the real world.”

- Pascal Vo, a senior double majoring in chemistry and biology

“The opportunity to lend a hand at the American Diabetes Association health fair was a very valuable experience for me. Usually, when I come across a Spanish speaker who asks for my help in Spanish, I often experience a temporary brain freeze. I am briefly paralyzed when I have to start thinking in a different language and I become nervous about not being able to efficiently express what it is I want to say. As part of the Fair, however, I was able to work past this initial fear and actually begin to help others in Spanish who sincerely needed it.”

- Roya Zamani, a senior majoring in biochemistry and biophysical sciences with a minor in Spanish

“I was a bit nervous at first because being bilingual is not the same as knowing all of the proper words that must be used to convey medical information. But nonetheless, I went in with a positive attitude and just tried my best to be as clear as possible and communicate to the patients the doctors’ questions and recommendations simply and clearly as possible. I worked at the Cholesterol and Blood Glucose monitoring stations. I translated forms that the patients had to fill out, as well as the results from glucose readings. The nervousness quickly went away as I had so many people asking for help that I didn’t even have time to think about being nervous. For many people, the fair was the only way for them to get their eyes checked, their glucose level measured, or their blood pressure reviewed. The health fair was their yearly visit to the doctor.”

- Johhny Andon, a senior majoring in biotechnology

“Your station is located right here,” said a woman as she directed me to the cholesterol and blood pressure table. Soon after arriving, I began conversing with the patients and translating for the medical professionals at my station. I was the only person working at my station who could speak Spanish and a lot of the patients did not speak English. However, reading and practicing I did for my Spanish for the Health Professions course imbued me with a practical vocabulary bank and sufficient practice to jump right in and take down the communication barrier.”

- Eric Kao, a first year student studying pharmacy