New program at USU promises better health care outcomes for non-English patients

Nov 13, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2023, 6:44 am

LOGAN — A new program at Utah State University will assist non-English speakers achieve better health care outcomes. The program is helping meet the demand for medical interpreters, by offering the training for free.

That change is important as the demand to help people who are non-English speakers better navigate the health care system is growing.

This course would normally cost between $400 – $600. Understanding the medical system can be hard enough when you’re working through it in your native language. This change is aimed at helping the growing number of those who don’t have that luxury.

Students in the class today were practicing guiding others through a medical emergency in Spanish. It’s similar to the course now being offered for free at Utah State University.

Sara Sanchez is now part of the first group of medical interpreters who just earned that certification, free of charge at USU.

“Growing up, I was always the one who had to translate for my parents,” Sanchez said.

She knows first-hand how tough it can be trying to fill that role as an unqualified 8-year-old.

“Cause they’re like, well, you know English. You know English, you should be able to translate all this,” Sanchez said.

It’s exactly why USU is now the first to help offer this training for free, as part of some recently passed legislation. Sen. Luz Escamilla, a former medical interpreter herself, sponsored the legislation after hearing about challenges with finding that kind of help in some more rural parts of the state.

“So the need was becoming more, you know just obvious that there was a need, especially in different parts of the state,” Escamilla said.

Assistant professors, like Sofia Monzon, were recently hired to help make it happen. She says there’s more to it than simply translating words and phrases.

“The cultural aspect, the social, economical backgrounds of the patients too, and there’s so many like traditional elements of the cultures that we have and that we carry with it,” Monzon said.

Soon there will be even more people like Sara Sanchez, ready and qualified to help people in their own communities.

“I was really excited,” Sanchez said. “I was just waiting for it to start.”

USU was chosen in part because of its campuses across the state that will eventually help expand this program adding languages like Chinese, French and Navajo.

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New program at USU promises better health care outcomes for non-English patients