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 InterpretAmerica is partnering with the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), the world’s largest association for the language industry, to produce think! Interpreting, which will run concurrently with GALA’s 2014 Language of Business Conference. 

“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”

So wrote American author Henry Miller[1] who is now considered a “literary innovator,” because he broke the rules by blending different literary forms, and in the process, created a new kind of writing.[2]

Dr. Javid's headshotThis week InterpretAmerica welcomes guest blogger Dr. Patrick J. Javid from Seattle Children's Hospital. In this articulate and insightful article, Dr. Javid outlines the critical importance of timely access to qualified interpreters in all settings and languages. His words parallel the thoughts I shared in my latest blog The Time is Now For Healthcare Interpreting 2.0. My article highlights the critical role interpreters play for families. This article beautifully expresses how interpreters empower providers to give their best care, even in very challenging linguistic circumstances. Many thanks to Dr. Javid for allowing us to reprint his article, first shared publicly on the NCIHC listserve.


By Patrick J. Javid, MD, Seattle Children’s Hospital
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A few weeks ago, as the Surgeon-of-the-Week, our team structured its entire set of morning rounds around a single individual. This person was not actually with us on rounds and she was not even in the hospital that day. But her expertise was instrumental to the care of one of our patients.

She was an interpreter. A Mixteco Bajo interpreter, to be exact. And she was one of the most important members of our team that day.


We mustn’t hide from the stark truth that [healthcare interpreting] standards and training reflect a workplace that existed prior to the sweeping changes being ushered in by new technology.

Some of you may have wondered why my blog hasn’t been updated in a couple of months. Others already know. Six weeks ago my family was hit with a catastrophic medical crisis when my 14 year-old son fell sick with hantavirus, a rare but often lethal illness prevalent in the Southwestern US.* His survival is due solely to the quick and highly-competent medical care he received every step along the way.

As our lives settle and I reinsert into my professional activities, I have reflected deeply on our experience. I can’t help but imagine how our crisis would have played out if we had been one of the millions of families in this country who are limited English proficient. In truth, I fear an LEP child facing a similar health crisis likely would not have survived, where my son did.

digital doctor


[We need to] "...begin to think about the concept of translating conversations, as opposed to translating documents. We need to set standards for and train our interpreters to quickly and accurately "interpret in writing" the content of patient-provider emails and texts."


Consider the following scenarios:

  • A school switches its primary communication method with parents from a monthly print newsletter sent home with students to multiple website updates a week.
  • The Presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Panama hold the first-ever virtual summit of multiple Presidents, using Cisco’s Telepresence Technology.
  • Walmart conducts a pilot run of talking drug prescription labels via mail order and onsite pharmacies.
  • A patient is told to access their test results online and is given a link to a website that will walk them through the process.
  • Your bank sends a text message alerting you that you are overdrawn on your account.

Fresh off both InterpretAmerica 4 and Critical Link 7...I was struck by how many in leadership now seem determined to point out “what is” and are less insistent about what “should be” or ‘what shouldn’t be” than in past gatherings.

There are almost as many definitions of the term “leadership” as there are ways to lead. A superficial perusal of dictionary definitions and quotes yields results as generic as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization” to something as specific (or convoluted) as “the challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

Every time we take the next leap, consider the next step, or launch the next project, we tell ourselves, “now we are well and truly down the rabbit hole.”

InterpretAmerica can be described in many ways. We like to “think outside the box,” “push the envelope” and “be the first to occupy a space,” as the new lingo goes.

But nothing describes better what we actually do, and I suspect, secretly enjoy the most, as the phrase “down the rabbit hole.”