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

For the nearly 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 medical interpreters and translators and offering courses for medical professionals in cultural responsiveness.

Our experts are national leaders in research to understand the impact of language and cultural barriers on healthcare, and regularly participate in conferences to address this issue. 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.

Medical Interpreting Training Program

Our medical interpreting training program offers courses on medical terminology, the role of the medical interpreter, and medical ethics in a variety of healthcare settings. Many of our courses are offered online.

To date, we have conducted on-site medical interpreter training sessions at the South Nassau Community Hospital; the New York University Program for Survivors of Torture; the New York City Mayor’s Office; the Brooklyn Hospital Center; Kaiser Permanente; Urban Health, New York City; Cyracom International; and the New York Poison Control Center.

Our courses include:

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

Program for Medical Interpreting Services

The Program for Medical Interpreting Services (PROMISE) provides medical interpreter training and helps find jobs for bilingual New Yorkers who are unemployed or underemployed. We are particularly interested in working with veterans, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

In 2012, we placed 80 percent of our graduates in medical interpreter jobs.

Cultural Responsiveness Training

This dynamic program trains clinical and medical administrative professionals in how to improve cross-cultural communication in healthcare settings, and offers resources to circumvent language barriers with the use of interpreters.

In addition, students learn about migration dynamics, entitlements, and epidemiological issues that affect immigrants.

Consulting Services

Our staff works with individual healthcare facilities 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.

Contact Us

For more information about our services, please contact Javier Gonzalez at