Diversity award: Read about last year’s winner, then nominate this year’s!

October 3, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Nominees are being sought for this year’s Distinguished Diversity Leaders award, making it a good time to review one of last year’s winners.

Technical medical language can be hard enough for patients who speak English to grasp, but imagine trying to understand your doctor if English isn’t your first language.

“Patients who may not speak English as their primary language need interpreters to help them understand, and be understood by doctors, nurses or other clinicians,” said Michelle Harris, director of Interpreter Services at UMHS.

Harris’ award-winning team of interpreters fulfills more than 2,000 interpreter requests across UMHS each month. Collectively, they can translate more than 70 languages, including American Sign Language, and were one of the winners of last year’s U-M Distinguished Diversity Leaders award. The nominations for this year’s award are due this week.

Interpreters attend annual check-ups, medical tests and office visits to help care providers communicate with patients and vice versa, making sure nothing gets lost in translation during critical — often stressful — times in patients’ lives when the difference between clarity and confusion can sometimes be the difference between life or death.

“The need for diverse and well-trained medical interpreters is critical to providing quality care. Our patients need to feel comfortable and need to feel as though their cultures are understood and accepted at UMHS,” Harris said.

The DDLA provides a monetary prize — $1,000 for individuals and $2,500 for teams — to be used toward professional development activities. Harris’ Interpreter Services team used their award to further develop educational programming for those interested in becoming language interpreters in a health care setting. The program, which is known as the Medical Interpreter Training Academy, provides workshops to individuals across the state of Michigan. The academy has taught more than 190 trainees in the past year.

“We aim to get individuals comfortable with all sorts of potential health care scenarios, such as working in pediatric, mental health, substance abuse or palliative care settings,” Harris said. “If interpreters are comfortable, patients will be comfortable. And that’s always the most important thing.”

Nominations for the 2016 Distinguished Diversity Leaders award are due Wednesday, Oct. 12. If you have an individual or a team you would like to recognize, visit the award website, which also lists previous awardees and provides a sample of a winning nomination.