The Fast-Growing Field of Medical Interpretation
Katharine Allen (MATI ’08), a former board member and president of the California Healthcare Interpreting Association and a respected leader in the field, is joined by a great number of alumni who make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. Katharine has teamed up with Professor Holly Mikkelson (MAICC ’76) regularly since 2009 to offer “Training of Trainers for the Healthcare Interpreting Profession,” a 40-hour intensive course that has attracted experienced medical interpreters and instructors from all over the U.S. and even other countries as well.
Medical interpreting is in many ways more personal than traditional conference interpreting where the interpreter is removed from the speaker in a booth. For medical interpreters, “the ultimate goal is understanding,” explains Johanna Parker (MATI ’05), lead interpreter for education and training at Stanford Hospital and Clinics (SHC), and the interpreter can ask questions and has the freedom to use clarifying language. The personal interactions can also be difficult, as when an interpreter has to break bad news or interpret last rites.
“I think it is important for interpreters in medical emergencies to show compassion and patience and to remain calm at all times,” shares Weihao Zhang (MACI ’14). He and (Jennifer) Xinyu Zhang (MACI ’14) interned with SHC last summer and were called on to assist Chinese-speaking passengers injured when an Asiana Air plane crashed at San Francisco International Airport. “I truly appreciate the opportunity provided by the MIIS-SHC internship,” says Weihao, adding that it was a very rewarding experience for him.
As Johanna says, the field of medical interpreting is “really coming into its own in the US,” with fast-growing demand for specialized, accredited medical interpreters. As with other fields of interpreting, the opportunity to keep learning something new is constant, so it helps to nurture that intellectual curiosity. Adds Johanna, “MIIS really teaches students how to study and how to prepare for anything, which is a big part of the profession.”
George Donald (BARS ’88) has been in the field for close to 24 years and has all kinds of good advice for newcomers—including wearing comfortable shoes, eating lots of protein for stamina and staying away from smoking. More specifically, he recommends keeping good records of interpreting experiences, attending regular workshops and trainings, making and keeping glossaries, knowing what things in your surroundings are called in each of your working languages and always, always being a good team player!
Top photo: Amanda Pease (MATI ’06) & Johanna Parker (MATI ’05)
Bottom photo: Weihao Zhang (MACI ’14)