Immigrant Health & Cancer Disparities Service: Eliminating Language & Cultural Barriers to Care

For the nearly one-tenth of Americans and one-quarter of New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, accessing quality healthcare can be a difficult task. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service is working to eliminate language and cultural barriers to healthcare by increasing the supply of professionally trained medical interpreters and offering courses for medical professionals in cultural responsiveness.

Our experts are national leaders who strive to understand the impact of language and cultural barriers to healthcare. They regularly publish papers on their efforts and consistently participate in conferences that address these issues. Our group has also informed policy through advocacy efforts at the state and national levels. Francesca Gany, Chief of the Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service, and research physician Lisa Diamond serve on the research and policy committees of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care. Javier González leads the group. He is advisor to the Certification Commission for healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and has overseen hundreds of trainings in medical interpreting.

Medical Interpreting Training Program

Leveraging more than twenty years of public health research and clinical experience, our experts have developed comprehensive medical interpreting training programs that enable bilingual individuals to serve as liaisons between patients and healthcare providers who do not speak the same language. Medical interpreters empower providers to deliver high quality, personalized care while ensuring satisfaction and most importantly, improved health outcomes for patients.

We offer training programs for both individuals and institutions that can be customized to meet each customer’s unique needs. At the end of each program, participants possess the building blocks essential to prepare them for the Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI™ or CoreCHI™) examination, and emerge as nationally certified medical interpreters.

  • We offer language specific training in any language including Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Russian, Spanish, etc. We teach the didactic in English and provide extensive language specific component for role-playing and interpretation practice.
  • Our trainings cover the terminology, skills, techniques and best practices essential for communication between limited English proficient patients and healthcare providers.
  • Participants gain an understanding of the role of the professional medical interpreter and medical ethics across a variety of healthcare settings.
  • All prospective participants undergo a bilingual language assessment as part of the application process.

To date, we have trained more than 2,000 individuals in more than 20 languages. Our course offerings include:

Medical Interpreting Training (MIT)

This comprehensive fee-based training program was designed to meet the growing interest of many bilingual individuals who want to become professionally trained medical interpreters. The trainings typically consist of eight full-day in-person sessions over the course of eight weekends (64 hours of training in total). These class sessions are supplemented by individual remote learning through our online language lab, where students participate in practice exercises and receive feedback on their performance. At the end of the program, students are qualified to take the CHI™ or CoreCHI™ certification exam and pursue employment in medical interpreting. The program schedule depends on enrollment, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested candidates should submit MIT online application. Candidates will then be contacted to complete the assessment to evaluate their language proficiency.

Some of our Course Offerings:

In-Person Consecutive Medical Interpreting Courses

Our introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses provide the skills needed to provide medical interpretation in different healthcare settings. These courses are designed for bilingual people with no medical interpreter experience, and for interpreters who have not had medical training.

In-Person Simultaneous Medical Interpreting Course

This course focuses on developing the skills to interpret simultaneously through exercises in shadowing, paraphrasing, and interpreting.

Online Virtual Interpreting Training and Learning (VITAL)

VITAL is an interactive online course that helps students learn to interpret in different medical settings. VITAL’s Language Lab helps build interpreting skills through simulated language-discordant medical encounters. The course is currently available in Spanish, and will soon be available in Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, and French.

In-Person and Online Language Lab

Our Language Lab helps instructors monitor their students’ performance through listening-in technology and reviewed recordings. Students can practice and monitor their own progress as they listen to their recorded work in English and their target language. Exercises include medical and colloquial concepts, and terminology used in different medical settings.

Working with Medical Interpreters

This course teaches healthcare practitioners to effectively use medical interpreters in communicating with patients who have limited English proficiency. Lectures, small-group instruction, and exercises such as role-playing are used to help participants learn to conduct a cross-linguistic, cross-cultural medical interview.

Program for Medical Interpreting Services & Education (PROMISE)

Thanks to a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation, the Program for Medical Interpreting Services & Education (PROMISE) provides medical interpreting training to eligible New Yorkers who are unemployed or underemployed, and helps them find jobs.

As of February 2015, the PROMISE program completed 15 training cycles and trained more than 300 interpreters in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian.

Eligibility criteria for being a PROMISE participant vary by grant year. To add your name to our waitlist, please call 646.888.4277. You will be contacted prior to the next training cycle in order to assess your eligibility.

Cultural Responsiveness Training

This dynamic program educates clinical and medical administrative professionals on how to care for patients of diverse backgrounds. Our customized trainings are designed to improve cross-cultural communication in healthcare settings and offer resources to circumvent language barriers with the use of interpreters. Providers who understand and respect the unique needs, preferences, and behaviors of their increasingly diverse patient populations are better equipped to ensure appropriate and accurate care. Ultimately, this will contribute to eliminating health disparities in the broader community they serve.

  • Cultural responsiveness training starts by helping clinicians develop self-awareness for their own culture and teaching them how to recognize and embrace cultural differences in their patients.
  • Participants will learn how to effectively provide care in light of cultural differences and ensure that their patients understand and adhere to their prescribed treatments.
  • In addition, participants learn about migration dynamics, entitlements, and epidemiological issues that affect immigrants.

Interpreter Screening and Evaluation Services

Our team of linguists assesses language proficiency and evaluates an interpreter’s ability to understand, process, and interpret medical information quickly and effectively.

Consulting Services

Our staff works with individual healthcare facilities and outreach programs to help them address their language and translation needs. Our services include needs assessments and recommendations, evaluations of existing language-service strategies, personnel training, and collaborative research. Sample consulting engagements include:

  • Delivering needs assessments and customized training programs for hospitals navigating the challenges of healthcare reform and shifting patient demographics
  • Advising hospital administrators on the adoption of Joint Commission, Title VI, and medical interpreting standards
  • Connecting health researchers with resources and potential research study participants in local immigrant health communities.

Contact Us

For more information about our services, please contact Javier González at gonzalc3@mskcc.org.