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Being a Medical Interpreter
by Kristie North

A cryingchild who misses his mother. A woman who ecstatically receives the news that she is pregnant. A couple who has tested positive for a serious STD. These are only a few examples of the situations that I encounter every day.

I am a medical interpreter. I am also a student.
I am very thankful that the interpretation certification program came to Wake Forest University during my time here. In May, I will be one of the first two students to graduate with the certificate.

I decided to take the Interpretation and Translation survey class with Dr. Furmanek last year more out of curiosity than any other reason. After discovering that I have an interest in and affinity for the work, I am taking the course in consecutive and simultaneous interpretation and performing a paid internship to complete the requirements.

I have quickly discovered that, while I do not plan to make Spanish/English interpretation my career, it is a growing field which can open doors to other professional opportunities. No matter if a student is interested in business, law, or (like me) medicine, interpreting in your chosen field gets you involved in ways that most interns can only imagine.
After volunteering as a medical interpreter for a year and a half, I was offered a job this semester interpreting at a local OB/GYN center. Not only can I make a contribution to patient's medical care, but I also get the invaluable opportunity to observe professionals at work. I am involved and actively consulted as doctors take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and offer a diagnosis and treatment. The people with whom I work know about my aspirations and make a special effort to teach me. They explain symptoms, let me watch procedures, and show me interesting specimens under the microscope.

My best experience as an interpreter, however, was just a couple of weeks ago. A woman for whom I had interpreted came in for her post-partum checkup. She brought her newborn with her to the appointment. His name is Javier. As his mother was examined, and I interpreted, I held Javier and stroked his hair. Every so often his big brown eyes would open to squint at me before falling closed again. It was just so incredible to think that I played a very small part into bringing this healthy, beautiful child into the world. In the field of interpreting, you bring people together; and together, people can do amazing things.

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