Medical Spanish Course Prepares Med Students for Outreach and RotationsOctober 6, 2023
Words matter. Especially if you're a healthcare provider trying to communicate with
a patient who doesn't speak English.
Abraham Melara (DO '27), a first year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) student and a native of Honduras, remembers traveling to the states as a youngster
with his mother who was being treated for breast cancer.
“As a child, I acted as an interpreter because her physicians did not speak our language.
It's very important for me as a medical student to give future physicians the tools
to communicate. People who are vulnerable due to a language barrier need the connection.”
Melara, along with Darwin Mendez (DO '27), another first year osteopathic medical student whose parents are from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, are leading a
medical Spanish course under the sponsorship of the Latino Student Medical Association
Mendez said, “When my parents first came to this country, they struggled to learn
English. I feel that the tables are reversed as I'm now in medical school where I'm
able to give back and teach classmates the Spanish language.”
He noted that more than one million Spanish speakers call Georgia home.
“To equip everyone to go out into the community and speak with Hispanic patients is
really powerful,” he said.
Close to 100 first and second year DO students spent their lunch break recently learning
medical Spanish. The hour-long class is the first in a series to be offered to medical
Maria Reyes (DO '26), a second year DO student and the vice president of LMSA, said
the classes are patterned after classes taught last year. Reyes, a native Ecuadorian,
explained that the course, which provides conversational Spanish lessons, creates
not only cultural competency, but also a connection with patients.
“Learning the language lets your patients know that you care about them,” she said.
Daniela Gutierrez (DO '26) the president of LMSA is a second year DO student who has
Cuban heritage. She feels that it's fitting to offer the first class during Hispanic
The first lesson included the importance of greeting the patient and introducing oneself
to the patient and all family members present, the terms for parts of the body, symptoms
and possible diagnoses, and letting the patient know that you will call an interpreter
if there is a misunderstanding.
Melara and Mendez took turns pronouncing words and phrases for the class and then
divided the students into groups where “patients” presented their symptoms and the
students practiced conversing with them.
These lessons are especially important as medical students volunteer in the Gwinnett
community where approximately 35,000 families speak Spanish at home, according to
Gwinnett County's Citizen Language Collaboration. In addition, students are preparing
for clinical rotations across the state that occur in their third and fourth years of medical school.
From September 15 to October 15, PCOM joins others around the country in observing
Hispanic Heritage Month. This important celebration honors the histories, cultures
and contributions of Hispanics and Latinos everywhere.
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About PCOM Georgia
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated
to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied
history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and
physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science,
and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM
Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service
to the wider community. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center,
an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment.
For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.
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