PCOM Students Launch Medical Spanish Course


April 22, 2021

This spring, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) launched the medical Spanish course “What is the Patient Saying? Medical Spanish Introductory Level” on the Philadelphia and South Georgia campuses. This pilot course is designed for intermediate and advanced Spanish-speaking students who desire to expand their medical Spanish communication skills in topics such as cardiology, neurology, pulmonology and gastroenterology as well as their patient-care skills. The course will be hosted virtually throughout the spring 2021 semester.

“We have worked diligently to get this course off the ground and students who go through it will be better equipped to communicate with and provide care for their Spanish-speaking patients,” shared Laila Kalaf (DO ‘23), one of the student organizers of the course who also serves as a teaching assistant.

This course is a continuation of the Medical Spanish Series that began last spring. After seeing such a positive response to the series, Ms. Kalaf as well as PCOM students’ Karen Alejandres (MS/Biomed ’21), Kimberly Tena Diaz (DO ’23), Dianne Mancheno (DO ’23) and Camila Salazar Meneses (DO ’23) joined together to create this course. Ms. Alejandres, Ms. Diaz and Ms. Mancheno also serve as teaching assistants (TAs) in this course. These students work alongside course directors Arturo Bravo-Nuevo, PhD, associate professor, bio-medical sciences; Eleonora Savio-Galimberti, MD/PhD, assistant professor, bio-medical sciences and Savita Arya, MD, associate professor, bio-medical sciences, PCOM South Georgia, as well as course administrator Ross Adamn. “All credit for starting this course goes to the students who put the work in to bring it to fruition. From planning the course curriculum to meeting with administrators for budget approval, this course wouldn’t be possible without them,” shared Dr. Bravo-Nuevo.

This course is specifically designed for medical students who have not begun their clinical rotations. To be considered for this course, students were interviewed to assess their proficiency in Spanish. Only students with an intermediate to advanced understanding of Spanish were considered, as the only language spoken during the course is Spanish. This semester’s course consisted of 16 students from the Philadelphia campus and four students from the South Georgia campus. There are plans to continue this course in the future and possibly expand to include more patient-facing programs, residents and possibly faculty.

“This course comes about at a time when the need for Spanish-speaking healthcare professionals only continues to rise,” shared Dr. Savio-Galimberti. “In the United States, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language and there is immense need to serve these populations,” continued Dr. Savio-Galimberti. Dr. Savio-Galimberti called on her experience working at Vanderbilt Shade Tree Free Clinic during her time as a clinical pharmacology and research cardiology fellow at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “While serving as a volunteer at the Vanderbilt Shade Tree Free Clinic I saw that there was a need to establish an organized and systematic approach for helping the Spanish-speaking population that we served. The same systematic approach that I used at the clinic is integral to this course at PCOM. Formal training in medical Spanish will improve the communication between the Spanish speaking population and the medical team, and therefore improve the delivery of medical diagnosis and treatment. This improves the efficacy of the health system as a whole and decreases inequalities that sometimes occur due to barrier language.”

“I am very happy to be a part of this course,” shared Karlee Grudi (DO ’23) an intermediate-level Spanish speaker. “I enjoy building confidence in my Spanish speaking, and I know down the road these skills will make my patients and I feel more comfortable. Throughout this course Dr. Savio-Galimberti reminds us of the importance of empathy, often sharing the phrase ‘Somos seres integrados’ – we are an integrated people,” shared Ms. Grudi.

Camila Salazar Meneses (DO ‘23) Kimberly Tena Diaz (DO ‘23) Dianne Mancheno (DO ’23) Karen Alejandres (MS/Biomed ‘21) Laila Kalaf (DO ‘23)
Camila Salazar Meneses (DO ‘23) Kimberly Tena Diaz (DO ‘23) Dianne Mancheno (DO '23) Karen Alejandres (MS/Biomed ‘21) Laila Kalaf (DO ‘23)

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  • About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

    Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

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