Dallas July 5, 2006 Fluency in "medical Spanish," acquired through a one-of-a-kind education program at UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School, has helped Jill Conway, a physician assistant, uncover medical histories and perform physical exams in Spanish. It is knowledge that has enhanced her relationship with Spanish-speaking patients and improved the medical care they receive.
"Patients feel comfortable in sharing their symptoms, and I can better educate them about their health condition," said Ms. Conway, a 2004 graduate. "It's been very helpful."
The Allied Health Sciences School has the only required, multisemester, linguist-taught medical Spanish curriculum in a physician assistant studies program in the nation, according to Dr. Eugene Jones, chairman of physician assistant studies.
Such training is increasingly vital, Dr. Jones said, as the Hispanic population is poised to more than triple by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Access to basic health care is often restricted due to language and cultural barriers. And the number of medical personnel who speak Spanish is woefully inadequate, resulting in the use of interpreters, which can hinder the bond between clinicians and patients," he said.
Cristina Gonzlez, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, developed the medical Spanish curriculum five years ago. She teaches it to students working on master's degrees to become physician assistants health-care professionals who chart medical histories, give physicals, interpret tests and develop treatment plans under physician supervision.
Ms. Gonzlez has also taught medical Spanish at UT Southwestern Medical School and at UT Dallas, and her curriculum is attracting interest from other area hospitals. In addition, she is writing a medical Spanish textbook for physician assistants or other health-care students.