Medical interpreters to hone new skills and honor one of their own at annual Paving the Way to Health Care Access Conference

May 31, 2018

Hundreds of medical interpreters from Massachusetts and across New England will share stories, network and earn professional certifications at the annual Paving the Way to Health Care Access Conference.

The two-day conference, to be held June 8-9 at the Royal Plaza Best Western Hotel in Marlborough, will feature nearly 30 workshops, a keynote address by Abigail Averbach, director of the Office of Population Health for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH), and an award recognizing dedication and achievement in the field of medical interpretation.

The conference comes as medical interpreters play an ever more important role in the delivery of health care in an increasingly diverse country, interpreting for limited English speaking patients in emergency rooms, hospitals and doctors’ offices and helping them navigate critical health care situations. In addition to their language skills, medical interpreters are also versed in the latest health care and medical terminology.

Joy Connell, a board member of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care, will receive this year’s Winsor Award, established in 2015 by the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network at UMass Medical School, the conference’s sponsor.

Connell is being recognized for her three decades of service in the field. Connell, a civil rights/diversity officer at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, has been involved with the department’s interpreter services program since it was launched in 1988.

Connell is well known in the medical interpreter field for her work with community-based organizations focused on immigrants and refugees and her passion for helping those with limited English skills get the medical and health care services they need. She is a former president of the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association and worked closely with Tony Winsor – for whom the award is named – in the 2000 passage of the Massachusetts Emergency Room Interpreter Law.

Averbach, an assistant commissioner at MADPH, will deliver the conference’s keynote address: “Aligning population health and system transformation through a focus on data, determinants and disparities.”

Averbach was appointed to the newly created Office of Population Health at MADPH last year as part of a larger initiative focused on evidence-based, outcomes-driven approaches to improving health equity for communities and groups across the state.

In her talk, Averbach, former director of the Office of Data Analytics at UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, will discuss some of the highlights of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s medical interpreter requirements and the role of interpreter services in achieving health equity for all patients in the state.

The conference will also feature a wide range of workshops and seminars on various challenges medical interpreters face, from a seminar on ways to improve note taking to “Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution in the Interpreters Workplace.” Conference attendees can also register for one of three different workshop tracks covering palliative care, difficult conversations, mental health, and therapist talk.

Offerings include “Tai Chi for the Medical Interpreter” as well as “Challenging Encounters: Expecting the Unexpected,” and “Advanced Arabic Interpretation Challenges.”

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