Student Committee Designs Medical Spanish CurriculumOctober 6, 2020
The goal of the committee is to prepare future physicians with the communication skills
and background education necessary to treat Spanish-speaking populations.
A strong believer in diversity and inclusivity, second year Biomedical Sciences student Jeisson Garcia (MS/Biomed ’21) experienced first-hand the language barrier
that exists between many Spanish-speaking patients and their healthcare providers
at a young age. Today, he is making strides to bridge the gap by bringing his idea
of creating a novel medical Spanish curriculum to life.
Four part online lecture series
Beginning Saturday, October 10 at 11 a.m., a four-part Medical Spanish Lecture Series,
brought to PCOM Georgia by the Medical Spanish Initiative Committee with the support
of the campus’ Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, begins. The course covers such topics as Greetings and Salutations, Patient History,
Review of Systems and Patient Commands.
The course series is offered to students, faculty, and staff members from new learners
to native speakers. With lecture-style class time and small group practice opportunities,
the experience includes small group tutors to ensure the material is readily understood.
A team approach to curriculum design
Garcia is quick to point out that an entire committee has helped to build upon this
initiative. After realizing the need for such a course, he invited fellow Biomedical
Sciences student Danielle Myara, MS/Biomed ’20, to join him. She embraced the idea
and together the two students began to work to turn this dream into a reality.
With advice and support from Valerie E. Cadet, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology in the Department of Biomedical
Sciences and co-chair of PCOM Georgia’s Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,
the two students decided to form a committee. Over the summer of 2020 and during the
COVID-19 pandemic, the Medical Spanish Initiative Committee was born.
Garcia explains that the long-term goal of the committee is to prepare future healthcare
providers with the communication skills and background education necessary to treat
Personal experience leads to passion to help others
As a teenager, Garcia experienced the need for better patient-doctor communication
in a profound way. Born in Colombia, South America, he was forced to leave his country
and family to seek political asylum in the United States. When he first arrived in
the US at the age of 15, an Orlando, Florida, family who owned a nursing home invited
him to live in the nursing home until he found a more stable situation.
“While I was living there, I felt alone and lost not knowing what my future would
be,” he said, but he soon realized he was not alone. An unlikely kinship formed. “A
few of the nursing home patients felt the same way,” he said. “We became good friends
because they were the only people that I could talk to and I was the only person that
they could talk to because we did not know how to speak English.”
He soon realized that there was an underlying issue. “These patients, my only friends,
were suffering and dying while feeling alone because they could not properly communicate
with the healthcare personnel to receive the care that they needed. It was painful
to see my friends and primary support suffer over this language barrier while not
being able to do anything about it.”
Garcia pledged to himself that when he got on his feet he would work to solve this
problem for future patients.
A few years later, Garcia reunited with his family in America. He again witnessed
a similar situation even more close to home. “My father, who doesn't speak English,
needed surgery and his urologist did not speak Spanish. This situation stirred a great
deal of anxiety and fear in my father, who was already fearful of the fact that he
needed to undergo surgery,” Garcia recalled.
“Thankfully, I had already learned English and was able to translate for my father
and his healthcare provider. After the surgery I thought to myself - what would have
happened and what kind of care would my father have received if I was not there for
him? I again realized that there is still an issue and that something needs to be
Breaking down the patient-doctor communication barrier
Student Wahenoor Singh (DO ’23), a medical Spanish curriculum co-writing chair, pointed
out that in America, more than 41 million people speak Spanish at home, making Spanish
the second most frequently spoken language in the United States behind English.
Singh said, “We believe that every individual has the right to easily accessible health
care. For Americans who are not proficient in English, healthcare professionals learning
Spanish will help to provide complete and efficient medical care.”
He addressed the issue of medical interpreters who often help alleviate some of the
treatment obstacles. Singh said, “While it is true that interpreters can always be
brought on the scene, this is less than ideal because it means a stranger is brought
to the patient and they must act as a bridge between the provider and the patient.
This could add more complexity between the patient-doctor dynamic, while possibly
revealing private information to the acting translator.”
He added that issues of a patient’s decision-making autonomy, as well as medical professionalism,
might come into play as well. “Medical professionals are ethically bound to advocate
for their patients. Even having rudimentary skills in speaking Spanish can help provide
more holistic and complete care to the patient and lead to higher patient satisfaction.
This is especially true when a higher quality of care can be provided by communicating
in a way the patient can fully understand.”
A comprehensive committee
Committee members include students from all five of PCOM Georgia’s programs including osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, biomedical sciences and
physician assistant studies.
Myara said, “We’d like to thank our project manager, Jaclyn Zibman (MS/Biomed ’22),
and the rest of the committee members for sharing this passion with us and working
so hard on this project. We couldn’t have asked for a better team!”
She added, “We would also like to thank Dr. Cadet for her endless support for our
initiative. We are grateful to have her in our corner. Also, a special thanks to Star
Greene, PCOM Georgia’s debt management counselor and the head of PCOM Georgia’s Council
on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the PCOM Georgia diversity council as a whole
for embracing this initiative as well and cheering us on.”
Garcia said, “The way that PCOM Georgia embraces diversity and inclusivity is one
of the main reasons why I chose to obtain my education here.”
Members of the Medical Spanish Initiative Committee include Garcia, founder and director;
Myara, associate director; Singh; Zibman; along with committee chairs including Leah
Adams (MS/PA ’22), Mariam Ahmed (DO ’23) Arish Amersi (DO ’24); Walter Asencios (MS/Biomed
’22); Lorena Buitrago (PharmD ’23); Rohan Ketan Dhamsania, MS (DO ’24); Angelique
Estrada (DPT ’23); Mahreen N. Gilani, MS, (DO ’23); Azalech Hinton (DO ’24); Farmaan
Judge (MS/Biomed ’22); Jeannel Miclat, MS (MS/Biomed ’22); Trupti Patel, (DO ’24);
Fabiola Rojas (PharmD ’23); Karan Soni (DO ’24); and Daniel Valdes (DO ’24).
Pharmacy Students Serve on Leadership BoardPCOM Georgia Helps Paint Gwinnett PinkPCOM Georgia Student Doctors Celebrate White Coat Ceremony
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. 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 pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500.
For more information, contact:
Public Relations Manager
Office: 678-225-7532 | Cell:
Connect with PCOM Georgia