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Doctor of Physical Therapy program student puts medical Spanish to use in Peru

Thanks to a partnership with El Centro de Español that empowers students to communicate in Spanish with patients, Carleigh High DPT'17 is spending several weeks at a hospital in Peru as part of her DPT clinical education experiences

Carleigh High, DPT Class of 2017

‚ÄčElon’s School of Health Sciences partners with El Centro de Español to offer medical Spanish to students, faculty and staff in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Physician Assistant Studies (PA) programs from beginners to advanced speakers

El Centro empowers students to better communicate in Spanish to develop stronger relationships with patients, reducing miscommunication and improving cultural understanding.

Carleigh High, DPT Class of 2017, is the first student to accrue 70 hours of medical Spanish class time and be awarded a stipend toward her airfare to Peru as part of her DPT clinical education experiences.

Carleigh’s reflections on her time spent with El Centro are below:

"It comes as no surprise that the first week of graduate school is filled with new faces, new information, and new opportunities. The opportunity to attend medical Spanish classes during lunch almost seemed like an additional burden for an increasingly busy schedule.

"What I didn’t realize is that these classes would become a welcomed change of pace allowing me to practice Spanish in a relaxed manner and provide me additional educational and social opportunities. Perhaps what surprised me the most was the interdisciplinary interaction of discussing different patient populations with physician assistant students.

"Through the various medical Spanish worksheets and conversations with Diana we not only expanded our vocabulary but also conversed about different approaches within each discipline (PA and physical therapy) and how we could work together to benefit patients. I was already fluent in Spanish, but I still got a lot out of these classes—so no matter your proficiency (novice to native) there’s great value to be gained from these classes. I really enjoyed these conversations and they were only the beginning of my experience with El Centro.

"In addition to lunch conversations at the Francis Center, I participated in several scheduled and impromptu events at El Centro including cooking classes, dinners at local restaurants, country presentations, workshops and documentary and film viewings. I also spent time studying and conversing with others about films we’d seen, travel plans, politics, future goals, or anything else that was on our minds. Whenever I felt the pressures of grad school building I could go to the couch at El Centro, get wrapped up in conversations sharing different opinions, listen to the upbeat music and unwind from a long day.

"Practicing Spanish with El Centro has also allowed me to be more confident when conversing with patients who speak Spanish. While not substituting for a medical translator, my ability to converse in Spanish has allowed me to gain the confidence and trust of some patients increasing my ability to treat them and address their needs.

"I have been able to help patients who speak Spanish during my clinical rotations and also at the H.O.P.E. clinic (Elon’s student run pro bono physical therapy clinic). In a couple months I have the opportunity to spend several weeks at a hospital in Peru and am thankful for the medical Spanish classes as I know they are great preparation for this experience.

"While practicing Spanish is at the front and center of my time spent with El Centro, the experience has also reminded me the importance of listening. Everyone has different viewpoints, beliefs, customs, and experiences. It’s crucial to remember to pause and actually listen to what others have to say- not simply hear them, but truly try to understand where they are coming from in order to work together for a common goal.

"This is vital for patients, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, and everyone with whom we come in contact. Everyone is unique in their own way, and it’s a beautiful thing. As you enter El Centro a sign reads, “Zona ‘happy’ sonríe antes de entrar” (happy zone, smile before entering). Truthfully, I couldn’t help but smile whenever my eyes caught a glimpse of that sign, but I think the sign had it backwards- I was always smiling when I left El Centro. Whether I was there to converse, cook, or watch a movie I knew I was amongst friends, even if we’d never previously met.

"I am truly grateful for this experience and know it will continue to inspire me in the future.”

Jennifer Medlin,
2/17/2017 10:05 AM