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Accurate translation can be a matter of life and death
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
Graduates of the first-ever course in medical interpreting serve as telephone interpreters between Hebrew and Amharic.
The first-ever course in medical interpreting took place just before Rosh Hashana, and the 18 graduates will serve as telephone interpreters between Hebrew and Amharic, taking calls from physicians and other healthcare professionals throughout the country. All participants in the recent course are originally from Ethiopia and trained as healthcare professionals, mostly registered nurses. The program was the result of a successful collaboration of the Tene Briut project at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera and Bar Ilan University's department of translation and interpreting studies. Open communication, free of language gaps, has been shown to be essential to the delivery of healthcare. A recent study of Ethiopian immigrants showed significant gaps in the extent to which they make effective use of medical services compared to the rest of the population. The study pointed to a clear need for better communication and overcoming misunderstandings stemming from cultural differences. One of the responses to these unsettling findings was the decision to launch a program designed to train professional interpreters. The course consisted of lectures on linguistic and cultural issues, professional ethics, the challenge of remote interpreting, as well as a review of medical terminology in the two languages. The main part of the course, however, comprised open discussions concerning the role of the interpreter (whether as a "transparent tube," culture broker, language mediator, patient advocate or ad hoc social worker). Each of the participants also took part in simulated sessions, playing an interpreter between an Amharic-speaking patient and a Hebrew-speaking physician. The simulations, which were filmed in a real health fund clinic, were then analyzed to evaluate the interpreters' performance and effectiveness. The program was initiated by Dr. Anat Jaffe, chief of the endocrinology department at the Hadera hospital, and Prof. Miriam Shlesinger, head of the BIU translation studies department. They worked with Tene Briut coordinator Pekkado (Yossi) Gadamo; epidemiologist Dr. Eltchee Seffefe; linguist Dr. Embesse Tabbere and Michal Schuster, a BIU doctoral student whose work centers on intercultural issues in healthcare delivery. They are hoping to launch the service soon, once the technical arrangements have been completed and funding has been secured. As for the recent graduates, who are all too familiar with the hardships encountered by non-Hebrew-speaking immigrants, they too are eager to begin placing the members of their community on an equal footing in accessing medical care. FROM KAZAKHSTAN TO LEARN Forty pediatricians and nurses from Kazakhstan have arrived in Israel for a four-month course at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. The course, in English and Russian, is the result of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Israel in the area of healthcare. During the past year, more than 80 Kazakh doctors, nurses and lecturers have trained at Israeli hospitals and universities. Kazakhistan's ambassador, Vadim Zverkov, said his country hopes to send Kazakh students for full academic degrees at Israeli universities. Although the professional level of Kazakh doctors is quite high, he added, the country still needs qualitative approaches to medical management and the introduction of new technologies, in which Israel has much experience. The training program was organized by Clalit Health Services and the Israel-Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce and Trade. The physicians trained in Israel will be employed at a large new maternity and childhood center to be opened in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital. MASTERS OF PUBLIC HEALTH The University of Haifa's School of Public Health has received permanent authorization from the Council of Higher Education to grant a master's degree in public health. The school, which currently has 242 master's and PhD students, 40 faculty members and 10 teaching assistants, offers 95 different courses in health promotion, community health, disease prevention, health economics, epidemiology and health management. There are two other Israeli schools of public health - in Jerusalem and in Beersheba. Meanwhile, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa has been allowed by the council to award master degrees in road safety. The program was developed with the Or Yarok organization, and outstanding students will be eligible for scholarships. IT PAYS TO BABYSIT Yosef Levi, a 57-year-old Kfar Saba resident who went to Jerusalem to babysit for his grandson, thanks his lucky stars that he was taken by Magen David Adom ambulance with chest pains to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem. The conventional diagnosis was a heart attack, but Dr. Rita Cohen, an urgent care specialist who examined him, suspected a different problem and did not prescribe heparin, the blood thinner traditionally prescribed for myocardial infarction. She had several tests, including a trans-esophageal echocardiogram, done and found he had a ruptured aorta that, if it had been treated with heparin, would have caused him to die on the spot. The Hadassah team ordered a special expensive stent from Haifa and performed stent grafting via a catheter to close the rip in the major blood vessel. He was sent home without having had to undergo a major chest and abdominal operation. "There is no consensus on how this condition is treated," Cohen said about the unusual case, "but I'm glad we were right."
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