MassHealth, UMass Medical School to sponsor 10th annual conference for medical interpreters

May 28, 2015

About 250 medical interpreters from throughout New England will learn about the latest advances in the field during the 10th annual Paving the Way to Health Care Access conference, co-sponsored by MassHealth and UMass Medical School.

The conference will be held June 19 at the Marlborough Courtyard Marriott Conference Center in Marlborough.

 “Supporting the professional development of medical interpreters is important. Only half of patients desiring care in a language other than English actually receive the assistance of qualified interpreters,” said Warren Ferguson, MD, medical director of the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division.

“In community health centers, for example, it is common to have staff providing interpretation with little interpretation training. Studies demonstrate large numbers of errors by such staff. Often, providers with false fluency will rely on their skills, which are also proven to be fraught with error,” said Dr. Ferguson, professor and vice chair of Family Medicine & Community Health at UMass Medical School.

MassAHEC is a leading trainer of medical interpreters across Massachusetts. The conference will feature 16 workshops and the presentation of a new award, the Tony Windsor Award, in honor of the lawyer who worked for passage of the Massachusetts Emergency Room Interpreter Bill. The bill, signed into law in 2000, mandates that all hospitals that provide acute care in emergency rooms or acute psychiatric services use competent interpreter services when they treat non-English-speaking patients. The initiative led to the effort to professionalize medical interpreters and improved access for limited English-proficient patients to quality care.

This year there will be a focus on welcoming American Sign Language (ASL) medical interpreters, whose professional development needs and interests are the same as spoken language interpreters.

Wyatte Hall, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at UMass Medical School, will be the keynote speaker. Hall, who is deaf, is a recent graduate of the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Gallaudet University. As both a patient and a provider, he will deliver his perspective on working with interpreters and how to know when a patient understands. He began working with interpreters as a student in kindergarten through Grade 12, and now collaborates with them as a therapist. He has had a personal interpreter for his professional work for the past two years.

Each interpreter has unique needs and works in different settings, so MassAHEC provides a spectrum of options in the workshops offered at the conference.

Topics include: an innovative technique for self-analysis; interpreting and translating medical information when there is no vocabulary; shaping best practices; navigating Medline Plus, the National Library of Medicine’s website for patients and their families; supporting patients beyond the exam room; interpretation in genetic counseling; anatomy of an office visit; and a technology and medical education update.

“It is exciting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this conference and our role in supporting the professional development of medical interpreters. The Tony Windsor Award is an excellent way to record this milestone and recognize the contribution of a leader who has advocated for the importance of trained medical interpreters to improve language access,” said Lisa Morris, MSTD, director of Cross Cultural Initiatives at MassAHEC.