CLAS Innovator Spotlight
Dr. Dennis Clements
Professor of Pediatrics and Global Health
In our work to bring new technology into healthcare language services, we run into many interesting and colorful individuals. Dr. Clements is surely one of them. Here's his story.
As a resident, Dr. Clements flew planes to rural North Carolina, often landing in grassy fields to help remote clinics treat their patients. Today, he leads medical students at Duke University into the mountains of Honduras to deliver care and learn medical Spanish.
We had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Clements through our work to bring the Canopy Medical Spanish Online Training Platform to Duke University School of Medicine.
"The lessons I've learned in Honduras could have been learned in the U.S, but aren't because in Honduras you're immersed in other people's lives, sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags, living in a small house, not in a cozy room in a hospital. You're meeting your patients in their territory." This experience, Dr. Clements claims, teaches a critical lesson. Bearing witness to the lives of patients reaffirms what medicine is all about, "to serve your patients, empathize with your patients, and build a connection with them."
These lessons are part of the reason why learning medical Spanish is so important for his students at Duke. Speaking a patient's native language makes patients more comfortable and ensures that they get the care they need. But it is also important to remember, Dr. Clements says, that "we need to listen more than we need to talk in order to understand what is going on."
Duke has been offering medical Spanish training for 10 years, an initiative started by Dr. Clements. Duke's medical Spanish program has been successful with about one-third of the school's medical students participating. Since the program began, the dean and other key faculty have funded and supported the program, and several students become certified interpreters every year.
Dr. Clements believes that language certification could alsobe incredibly important for doctors and nurses. As he has noticed an increase in non-English speaking patients, Dr. Clements has sought out bilingual staff to ensure his practice runs smoothly.
Learn more about:
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Susan Mirabal has a masters in biology with a biophysics concentration, experience with health policy, and is a candidate for an M.D. In this blog piece, she offers her personal insights into the immigrant patient experience and she discusses her active efforts to change the linguistic and cultural landscape of healthcare in the future. An inspiring woman and an inspiring read!
“When I know I’m interpreting for a cardiologist, I really like to go into the app to look for the most common sentences that might come up in a conversation between the doctor and the patient. I could use a dictionary, but you cannot translate word-for-word! You really need to understand the meaning of the sentence. The app does a really good job with that. I often find that the words in the app are much more appropriate to the greater meaning of what has to be communicated.”
Bernard L. Lopez, MD, MS, CPE, FACEP, FAAEM speaks about the importance of communication, discusses current barriers for limited-English-proficiency patients, and gives his impressions of the Canopy Medical Translator App. Dr. Lopez is a professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Associate Dean of Diversity and Community Engagement at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.
"Spanish-speaking patients make up a large portion of the demographic with whom I work with on a daily basis.... By increasing our numbers of Spanish speaking practitioners, we lessen the divide between our Spanish speaking patients."
We had the honor of interviewing Elizabeth Marshall about her experiences and insights on providing healthcare . Izzy has a wealth of knowledge and it is clear that she will be a compassionate physician. Here, we've shared a condensed version of our conversation with Izzy with the Canopy community:
How a nurse integrates the Canopy Speak application into her practice.
Meet Arthur J. Engler, PhD, RN. Art is an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing. His academic areas of interest include psychiatric/mental health nursing, and neonatal tertiary care and pediatric primary care. Professor Engler is a member of NAHN, and is passionate about providing nursing students with the skills to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients. He is a nationally certified Bilingual Health Care Provider. We had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Engler a bit about his career, experiences and impetus for teaching a medical Spanish course at UConn, and experience with Canopy’s Medical Spanish Training Course.
"Today our planet is more diverse than ever. As healthcare professionals, we can expect to see an uptick in the need for language assistance for at least the next century, especially those who practice in urban settings or do healthcare work abroad. In an ideal world, every, every provider would have an interpreter on hand, but as our communities diversify and grow, this becomes both economically and logistically challenging."
"Using Canopy, I was able to decipher the patient's symptoms and came to a diagnosis and treatment plan. The patient’s reaction resonated with me. I recall the way his face lit up during our conversation facilitated by the app, and I was reminded how a smile is part of the universal human language."