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UNC Hopes To Immerse Future Doctors In Spanish

Posted August 5, 2004

— The medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is making a special effort to train new doctors in Spanish.

In the heart of downtown Raleigh, the

Open Door Clinic

is open for business. A third of the clinic's patients, like Maria Al Tamirano Ocampo, are Hispanic. UNC medical student Adam Froyum Roise speaks her language.

"My Spanish is good enough that I can communicate effectively, but it's not where I can communicate seamlessly," Roise said.

Roise is one of 15 rising second-year med students chosen for UNC's

Spanish Immersion

program. It includes 10 days of special training in Mexico.

"What we really wanted the students to understand was the culture and the health needs of the patients that they're seeing in the practice," program director Pam Frasier said.

The students spend six weeks during the summer working in underserved Hispanic communities in the state. Whether in rural farm areas or inner cities, officials believe good communication between doctor and patient is critical.

"It's very important. There are many people who don't speak English that don't seek out treatment because they don't know where to go," Ocampo said.

"Some community providers have gotten to the point where they will not accept a student who is not fluent in Spanish," Frasier said.

Roise is well-prepared to meet the demand for bilingual doctors and the skill will not be wasted once he graduates.

"I want to practice in a clinic when I get out of medical school," he said. "I want to see patients and have long-term relationships with patients."

UNC's Spanish Immersion program is made possible through a federal training grant.

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