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Medical Spanish

Sandra Quezada

Recognizing the demand for bilingual health care professionals, the School of Medicine offers Medical Spanish as an elective course for credit to first year medical students. The 10-week course is offered each semester for students with at least an intermediate level of Spanish speaking proficiency and is designed to elevate their skill level from lay conversation to the ability to conduct a full medical interview. Through classroom didactics the course focuses on medical vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, and insight into cultural nuances that impact the physician-patient interaction with the goal of helping them to become physician who are able to communicate clearly with Spanish-speaking patients who are not fluent in English. To receive credit, students must complete 40 weeks of Medical Spanish and 80 hours of practical experience where they apply their skills at Spanish-speaking clinics in the area.

The Medical Spanish curriculum is designed to be systems-based and parallels the students’ block schedule as much as possible. During the first year, students learn terminology and practice their ability to conduct a medical interview focusing on obtaining the chief complaint, history of present illness, review of systems, social and family history that may be pertinent to anything from cardiovascular disease, obstetrics and gynecology to gastrointestinal pathology. Second year medical students have the opportunity to strengthen these skills as well as learn to conduct a physical examination using appropriate direction in Spanish, as well as deliver recommendations and treatment plans in Spanish.

Medical Spanish was developed by Hugo Gonzalez-Serratos, MD, PhD, then Professor of Physiology. “One of my goals was to teach medical students culturally competent practical skills for them to be able to interview our growing number of Spanish speaking patients and their families," said Dr. Gonzalez, who led the team of bilingual course instructors until his recent passing. The course is now taught by Sandra Quezada, M.D., M.S., a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and current clinical instructor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

By the end of the course students should be able to initiate and maintain conversations in Spanish, interview Spanish-speaking patients in their own language , and know and understand the cultural differences that affect the way physicians and patients communicate. Medical Spanish students are preferentially assigned to clinics and practices with Spanish-speaking patients for their fourth- year area health education center (AHEC) rotation.

"In addition to the obvious benefits to Latino patients and their families, medical students with bilingual ability are attractive to prospective employers," says Donna L. Parker, MD, associate dean for Student Affairs. "In states such as California, Texas and Florida, the ability to speak Spanish is almost a job requirement.” With a 101% increase in the number of Hispanic Marylanders from 2000 to 2010 according to U.S. Census, this skill will undoubtedly become increasingly more relevant and vital to health care providers in the Maryland area.

For more information about Medical Spanish, please contact: Sandra Quezada, Clinical Instructor