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Press Releases

HHC/CUNY Graduates Help New Yorkers Navigate Complex Healthcare System

Staff Translators With Deep Knowledge on Healthcare Concepts and Terminology Are Part of HHC's Comprehensive Effort to Provide Healthcare Services With Cultural and Linguistic Competence

Dec 12, 2011

New York, NY
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The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and the City University of New York (CUNY) today announced the third year of graduates for the CUNY Healthcare Interpreter Program, which trains bilingual and multilingual students to serve as qualified hospital interpreters to help limited English speakers navigate the complex healthcare system and sets a new standard for the professional preparation needed to serve patients. A total of 54 graduates who speak Spanish, Polish and French received healthcare interpreter certificates at a graduation ceremony today at HHC’s Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx.
The 2011 graduates are a mix of current HHC employees and volunteers and CUNY students who successfully completed a 45 hour program that focuses on interpreting clinical information, recognizing and dealing with ethical issues and cultural conflicts, and understanding clinicians’ roles and expectations. Students also learn medical vocabulary and use role-playing exercises to master interpreting skills that emphasize accuracy, which is essential for patient safety.
“Language and cultural barriers in health care settings can negatively affect access to quality care for patients with limited English language skills,” said Caroline Jacobs, Senior Vice President for Safety & Human Development. “Having professionally trained HHC medical interpreters improves patient care, safety and access to care.”
“I use my interpreter skills on a daily basis,” said Emma Koffi a Senior Community Liaison at Harlem Hospital. “There are a lot of patients from West Africa who speak French and need someone to translate what physicians and nurses are telling them about their medical conditions and care. It is also great for the physicians because they can better understand a patient’s condition.”
Of the 54 graduates, 10 are HHC employees who work in hospitals across four boroughs including Harlem Hospital, Lincoln, Jacobi and North Central Bronx Hospitals, Coney Island and Elmhurst. Half of the HHC graduates have also gone on to complete the second level of interpreter courses and must demonstrate a deeper understanding of medical concepts and terminology as well as cultural issues and dialect variation.
“This program is a marvelous example of workforce development and community engagement,” said Dr. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, President of Hostos Community College. “The capacity of a health care interpreter at this point in time is an incredibly valuable skill. I congratulate the Hostos graduates and commend their effort, time, and dedication. I feel honored to know that we are fulfilling our purpose by preparing language experts that will save lives.”
The interpreter program was developed by an Advisory Board Committee comprised of the HHC Center for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), 1199 SEIU League Training & Upgrading Fund, language access managers from other NYC hospitals and a CUNY Consortium including Hostos Community College, York College, Medgar Evers College, LaGuardia Community College, The City College of New York, and Queens College. They joined together to meet the increasing need for highly qualified on-site interpreting services at HHC facilities and other hospitals. This collaboration sets a new standard for how interpreters are trained to manage complex communications in healthcare settings.
French was added to the curriculum this year as well as level two courses, which build on the skills learned in level one. Level two consists of three courses that deepen student knowledge on healthcare concepts and terminology, as well as strengthen communications, cultural competency, and decision-making skills, so that students may serve as high quality, effective interpreters.
The program was offered to HHC bilingual staff and CUNY students pre-selected and screened for language proficiency. HHC via CLAS (Center for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) subsidized the tuition for their employees. The CUNY Healthcare Interpreter Program provided an opportunity to acquire the interpreting skills needed to meet the criteria established by the Standards of Practice of the International Medical Interpreters Association and the Code of Ethics of the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare.
This program is just one of HHC’s extensive language access services. Others include:

  • Telephonic Interpreter Services: Enables all HHC facilities to have immediate access to professional interpretation services in over 160 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Print and electronic publications: HHC policies, consent forms, patient education materials and many other written communications are available in the top 12 “HHC languages” spoken by the majority of patients. The languages include Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Polish, Russian and Urdu.
  • Multilingual Signage: HHC facilities display signage appropriate to their patient population.
  • For more information on the CUNY Healthcare Interpreters Program go to www.cuny.edu/healthcareinterpreter.

2011 HHC Graduates

  • Ada Villatoro-Bussa – Assistant Director, Women and Children’s Health, Coney Island Hospital
  • Attisso Akakpo, Public Health Advisor, Family Center Care, Jacobi Medical Center
  • Blandine Assomou, Coordinator Manager, Harlem Hospital
  • Christina Figueroa, Clerical Associate, North Central Bronx Hospital
  • Emma Koffi, Senior Community Liaison, Harlem Hospital
  • Jocelyn Martin, Head Nurse, Medina Clinic, Harlem Hospital
  • Lourdes Gonzalez, MPH, Associate Director, Breakthrough, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center
  • Magnim Serrano, Patient Representative, Coney Island Hospital
  • Mailen Tapia, Registered Nurse, Elmhurst Hospital
  • Rosita Jiménez-Nuñez, Community Liaison, North Central Bronx Hospital

About CUNY

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, comprised of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the City University School of Law at Queens College, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the CUNY School of Public Health. Serving more than 243,000 degree-credit students and 273,000 continuing and professional education students, the University confers 35,000 degrees each year – more than 1.1 million associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees since 1967. CUNY plays a crucial role in the life and economy of the city and state. As of 2007, 54 percent of undergraduates and 46 percent of all college students in New York City were attending CUNY. College Now, CUNY’s academic enrichment program for 46,000 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and at more than 343 high schools. Online baccalaureate degrees are offered by the School of Professional Studies.


About HHC

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $6.7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system with its own 420,000 member health plan, MetroPlusHealth, and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country. HHC serves 1.4 million New Yorkers every year and more than 475,000 are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 70 community based clinics. HHC Health and Home Care also provides in-home services for New Yorkers. HHC was the 2008 recipient of the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission’s John M. Eisenberg Award for Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. For more information, visit www.nychhc.org/hhc or find us on facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or twitter.com/NYCHealthSystem.