New Certificate Trains Spanish-Speaking Allied Health Providers
Undergraduate students in allied health sciences and related fields will now be able to learn the language and issues specific to providing care to the underserved Hispanic community through a new interdisciplinary academic program.
The program was created to meet a growing need for Spanish-speaking professionals in health care and social work. The undergraduate certificate comprises 22 credit hours of classwork, service learning and an optional study abroad experience.
Students must have completed Spanish 1002 or an equivalent basic Spanish course before taking the certificate courses. Though classes focus on social work, students in health sciences or other liberal arts majors like sociology or anthropology could benefit from the certificate as well.
Certificate director Ligia Gómez has seen the need for bilingual health care providers first-hand. A native of Colombia, she worked for years to link local Hispanic families to health care services before joining the UC faculty as assistant professor educator of romance languages.
She remembers that many clients were unable to read or write in their own language, so Spanish-language materials could not reach them. For others, the typical social work approach was too institutional.
"Fliers, brochures—they are too impersonal,” says Gómez. "Personal relationships are so important for the Hispanic community. When they meet someone who they feel they can trust, the whole relationship can take off. These things can be very important for a successful health care or social services program.”
Now she plans to use her experiences while teaching the certificate, in order to educate students not just about the language but also about the cultures of their future clients.
"In the Spanish courses, I will be teaching the language for specific purposes,” she says, "so when I’m talking to the students, I’m not just teaching them the vocabulary and grammar, but I’m also sharing with them the expertise, and the stories, from my time in the community. Additionally, we’ve built a strong service learning component into the certificate, so students will be working with the underserved Latino community in Cincinnati and abroad.”
Associate professor of social work Christine Lottman believes the certificate will help students in multiple ways: by better preparing them for the job market after graduation and by training them early in how to meet the needs of an underserved population.
"We can talk about the macro level of social work and how important advocacy is,” says Lottman, "but when students are placed where the rubber meets the road, those kinds of policies (or lack thereof) become much more important. So if our students are able to work closely with underserved communities, they are going to be able to be broader in their scope and practice around advocacy.”