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News & Articles > Q&A with Dr. Pilar Ortega and Dr. Marco A. Alemán, authors of Spanish and the Medical Interview: Clinical Cases and Exam Review, 1st Edition

Why did you feel that it was important to write a book on Spanish clinical cases and exam review? What does your publication add to the field?

A growing number of medical schools, universities, and hospitals are looking for ways for their students and clinical staff to better communicate with the growing Spanish-speaking population. While the number of courses that teach medical Spanish has increased, very few resources are available to help learners practice and assess their skills. As educators and bilingual clinicians ourselves, we felt the need to create such a resource, full of authentic Spanish-speaking patient stories that reflect the true experience of caring for this diverse community. The book is structured as a series of clinical cases that mirror medical education communication skills training and healthcare practice. So, as in real medical practice, the reader can progress through each step of the case from when the patient registers at the front desk to taking a history, performing an exam, discussing the diagnosis and plan, and documenting the visit. Finally, each case provides a unique opportunity for the reader to reflect on their language and culturally relevant communication skills! 

What is the most exciting aspect of Spanish and the Medical Interview? What chapter or topic covered in this edition are you most excited about?  

The most exciting aspect of the book is the authenticity of both the patient experience and the clinician perspective reflected in every case. This was only possible thanks to the many contributing authors and audio actors who are not only experts in their respective health fields but also bilingual professionals that represent a rich diversity of Spanish-speaking ancestry, nationalities, regional language varieties, and cultural perspectives.  

Who will find the greatest value from the Spanish and the Medical Interview and why?  

This book is for medical students, doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other health professionals who want to learn, practice, and self-assess their skills in communicating with Spanish-speaking patients! Unlike other types of language courses or tests that are too general to be useful for healthcare settings, this book offers clinically applicable scenarios, having been created by clinicians for clinicians!  

Readers with varied Spanish skill sets can also use the book. The patient-clinician dialogues are written in Spanish and are complex enough for advanced Spanish speakers to improve and test their medical communication skills, but are also accompanied by Spanish-language audio recordings, bilingual case documentation, and English-language case discussions that will help novice and intermediate learners confirm their comprehension of the patient interviews and progressively gain new skills.  

What new ideas, practices, or procedures do you hope your readers take away from the Spanish and the Medical Interview?  

Spanish speakers represent a diverse and growing population. In order to improve health equity and reduce health disparities, we need to get to know Spanish-speaking patients not only in terms of their health or disease but most importantly recognize their diversity and treat them as individuals with unique social, cultural, and linguistic contexts. The clinical cases in this book do just that! 

What problem do you hope the future generation of health professionals will be able to solve?  

Medical Spanish is a rapidly growing field. We hope that future medical Spanish academic work can continue to explore the dynamic nature of language and build an appreciation of the intersectionality between language, culture, social and other aspects of a person’s life and identity. We need more work that is collaborative among language and medical experts and that celebrates the rich and diverse voices among communities! 

Is there anything else about the Spanish and the Medical Interview you’d like to say?  

We are excited to devote several cases in this book to oral and dental health and hope that future work can highlight medical Spanish skills among many other health professions and members of the healthcare team! 

Pictured are all the amazing contributors of Spanish and the Medical Interview, 1st Edition

Dr. Pilar Ortega is a medical educator and emergency physician at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, based in Chicago, Illinois. The focus of her teaching and research is on medical Spanish and, more broadly, on helping medical students, doctors, and other health professionals communicate effectively with linguistically diverse communities. As part of this work, she leads an interdisciplinary non-profit organization called the National Association of Medical Spanish (NAMS). She completed her undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University and her medical training at the University of Chicago. Dr. Ortega learned Spanish and English as a young child and feels passionately about the value of multilingualism. 

Dr. Marco A. Alemán is a clinician-educator and general internist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he directs the Comprehensive Advanced Medical Program of Spanish (CAMPOS). His medical education work focuses on clinical skills and medical Spanish instruction. Dr. Alemán is a native of Perú and received his BS at Loyola University Chicago, his MD at the University of Illinois, and completed his internal medicine residency at Rush Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.  

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