June 18, 2019 | 75° F

U. medical programs should offer interpreter certificate for students

Since the 2010 incorporation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into U.S. legislature, the population of individuals who can obtain affordable health care has expanded. Combine this policy change with the growing cultural and linguistic diversity in many areas of the U.S. and we have the existing cultural and language barrier in modern health care becoming even more of a medical, legal and financial burden.

As much as these barriers exist on an international and national level, such issues are just as prominent here. The University and the surrounding New Brunswick area have communities that are undeniably diverse. Why don’t we incorporate the cultural and linguistic diversity of many students here at the University into our education? I am encouraging all Rutgers-New Brunswick students and faculty members interested in health care to consider this question.

With responsibilities of medical interpreters, including translator of medical information, culture broker and patient advocate, their presence is essential. Yet, individuals with limited English proficiency and/or who speak a primary language that is not English are not often provided with certified medical interpreters. Whether this be the result of the limited number of interpreter services that are available at medical institutions or the lack of a standard procedure for incorporating medical interpreters into patient-doctor relationships, such occurrences are unacceptable. Unqualified individuals like family members and friends of patients are not acceptable replacements for certified medical interpreters. When the problem is often the limited access and availability of certified medical interpreters, why not train our future health care providers to be more culturally competent and multilingual at the undergraduate level?

My team members and I passionately believe that the University should incorporate a Medical Interpreter Certificate Program into its growing repertoire of programs and make such training available to traditional and non-traditional students. The success seen in schools like Boston University, NYU and Cambridge College can certainly be replicated and perhaps magnified here at the University. If you are a student in medical, pharmacy, nursing or physician assistance programs, help us make this certificate program an option for you! Not only will this certificate program provide graduates with additional employment options post-grad, it will help students take on a more personal approach to their education and become more culturally competent in future careers. We have strong hopes that incorporating this Medical Interpreter Certificate Program into the undergraduate education of University students majoring in health care-related fields can launch a national initiative aimed at decreasing the prevalence of language barriers in future health services. All my team asks is for the support of our University community in bringing the need for a Medical Interpreter Certification Program to the attention of our institutions academic leaders.

Ife Aridegbe is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior majoring in biological sciences with a minor in public health.

Ife Aridegbe

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