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Strategies for Designing an Effective Medical Language Program

Last Updated: March 3, 2022


Medical language education seeks to address healthcare inequities by equipping clinicians to care equitably for populations who prefer non-dominant languages. In the United States, Spanish is the most common non-English language spoken with four out of ten Hispanic individuals reporting limited English proficiency. Although a majority of U.S. medical schools provide some form of medical Spanish education, current medical Spanish training and assessment vary widely across schools, and faculty report multiple barriers to successful implementation. In this Editorial, we provide recommendations for developing and improving a medical language program using an evidence-based, scholarly approach. Using medical Spanish education as a frame of reference, we present a stepwise approach to medical language education. With these strategies, educators can improve medical language program sustainability and its impact on clinicians’ competencies in communication skills in the languages relevant for the populations they serve.


Tiffany M. Shin, MD, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (tshin@wakehealth.edu)
Carmen Pérez-Muñoz, PhD, Wake Forest University, Department of Spanish
Marco A. Alemán, MD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Department of Medicine
Pilar Ortega, MD, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Departments of Medical Education and Emergency Medicine