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New partnership increases patient interpreters at JayDoc Community Clinic in Wichita

To aid more patients, KU School of Medicine-Wichita students are teaming up with students earning a Spanish for the Professions certificate at Wichita State University.

A student and interpretor talk to a patient in an exam room
The student-led JayDoc Community Clinic has seen a steady increase in patients over the last few years, prompting students to take action to fill the need for more interpreters.

With an increase of Spanish-speaking patients being seen at the JayDoc Community Clinic, the KU School of Medicine-Wichita students who run the free clinic knew they needed to find more interpreters to better serve that population.

“While we provide free care, we still want it to be high-level care,” said Candice Metzinger, the fourth-year medical student who is the clinic’s executive director this year.

Last year, Metzinger had temporarily helped schedule interpreters for the clinic’s Spanish-speaking patients and “noticed there was a vacuum in how many interpreters we could rely on.”

That’s when a subcommittee, led by Sarah Veesart, Class of 2024, was charged with finding a solution to expand the number of interpreters from the half-dozen or more bilingual community volunteers — some of them pre-med students from Newman University — who were already helping at the clinic.

That “vacuum” is now being filled with a new partnership that the JayDoc Community Clinic has formed with a language certificate program at Wichita State University. According to WSU officials, it is the first university in Kansas to offer a certificate for those who want to perform language services in professional settings such as health care.

WSU students planning to earn the Spanish for the Professions certificate now spend a semester doing a capstone practicum at the JayDoc Community Clinic, which is offered half-days on Saturday and on Monday evenings at Guadalupe Clinic, a nonprofit health clinic. Saturday’s clinic is at the 940 S. St. Francis location, while a Monday evening clinic is offered at the 2825 S. Hillside location.

Before doing the practicum, WSU students have already taken classes that have prepared them on the ethics of providing interpreting and translation services as well as a specific class on medical Spanish.

While the certificate program has been offered for several years, the capstone practicum is a more recent requirement, according to WSU Spanish and linguistic professors Rachel Showstack, who oversees the practicum, and Julie Henderson, who teaches the principles class.

On a recent Monday night, WSU students Lauren Dalhaus and Itzia Barraza-Cordova stood by, ready to provide Spanish interpretation services to any patient who requested it. That night, about half the patients would need the service.

Both said they have found it fulfilling to interpret and realize the importance of what they’re doing.

“It’s been an amazing experience and an enormous responsibility because these people might otherwise not have access to health care,” said Dalhaus, who will earn her master’s degree in Spanish this May.

Barraza-Cordova, who is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish with plans to do advocacy work, praised the JayDoc Community Clinic staff for providing free health care services and helping remove language barriers for its Spanish-speaking patients.

“This is an important resource,” Barraza-Cordova said.

The JayDoc Community Clinic has seen a steady increase in patient numbers over the past several years, from 366 in 2020 to 415 in 2021 and 439 in 2022, according to numbers provided by Metzinger.

The clinic is on pace to break its patient record again. By mid-April, the clinic had already served 405 patients, with more than 230, or 58%, being Spanish speaking.

Because of the increase in patient numbers, the JayDoc Community Clinic will focus exclusively on its twice-weekly general medicine clinics after the 2023 academic year, which ends June 30. Guadalupe Clinic medical professionals and volunteers will take over the care of the patients who have been attending the JayDoc Community Clinic’s once-monthly diabetes and ophthalmology specialty clinics.

Shifting the JayDoc Community Clinic’s focus exclusively to the general medicine clinics will help direct resources where they are most needed, according to Metzinger and J.V. Johnston, Guadalupe Clinic’s executive director.

All medical and pharmacy students at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita campus are eligible to volunteer at the clinic.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita