Career-focused Spanish

Medical and Law Enforcement Courses Building Bi-Lingual Professionals

There’s a lot of talk about the shortage of physicians and other health care professionals in North Carolina, but what’s really missing is the physician who can serve Spanish-speaking patients as well.

Campbell University is arming its pharmacists, physician assistants and (in the future) medical doctors with not just Spanish courses, but courses that focus on medical terms in order to provide the best medical care possible for the state’s growing Latino population. The University is offering Medical Spanish, a two-part course designed for students in the medical field who have taken the introductory Spanish courses.

Associate Professor Ann Ortiz, who underwent a rigorous training program before bringing the classes to Campbell, said Medical Spanish fills a big need in the medical community.

“The industry needs more interpreters and professionals who can speak Spanish,” she said. “Anyone who’s in the health care environment needs to know some of the basics.”

Ortiz said simply knowing Spanish isn’t always enough for health care professionals when communicating with patients. Knowing medical Spanish terms and understanding ethical principles and Latino culture can make a recent graduate much more hireable, especially in areas where the minority population has grown.

“We’re already working with our physician assistant students, and we’ll be shadowing them for patient-doctor interviews,” Ortiz said.

The two-part course began last spring and has continued into this fall. And Campbell’s foreign language department isn’t just focusing on the medical field. Assistant Professor Dr. Rene Ibarra is teaching Spanish for Law Enforcement, which teaches future law enforcement personnel the correct way to communicate with the Spanish-speaking population.

“A police officer needs to know Spanish these days, especially if they’re in an emergency, but also if they’re doing something routine like reading Miranda rights,” Ibarra said. “In other countries, police officers aren’t always looked at as being friendly, and many are afraid to go to the police. We’re helping our students who want to enter this field change that perception.”

Department Chairman Dr. Tiago Jones said these classes are just the beginning for Campbell University in terms of career-focused Spanish.

“We’re even looking past law enforcement and into the justice system,” Jones said. “We would like to expand these courses to pre-law … We see this as the beginning of something more. Campbell plays a big role in the community, and we’d like to bridge our expertise (in Spanish) to better serve our community’s needs.”

— Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications