Lively CHIA Takes San Jose

By Judit Marin

On March 2 and 3, the California Healthcare Interpreters Association celebrated its seventh Annual Conference in San Jose. With a wide range of presentations, events, vendors, and networking opportunities, this dynamic organization continues to make a difference.

The theme of this year’s conference, Competency or Complacency? Let’s Stand Up for Quality, offered a wealth of activities for anyone working in the healthcare interpreting field or concerned with overcoming language barriers to quality healthcare.

Some of the conference highlights included training sessions for interpreters on consecutive interpreting skills, mental health interpreting, creating effective resumés, telephonic interpreting, and standards of practice. Other sessions were specifically tailored to trainers and managers, addressing bilingual employee skill development, language access tools, performance measures, and web-based training. Two highly informative panel discussions about certification and recent legislative developments relating to healthcare interpreting were well attended and sparked lively conversations. This year’s conference presenters, vendors, and attendees came from all over the United States and represented key stakeholders in many disciplines within our budding profession.

Certification and Awards
The issue of a certification test for healthcare interpreters took center stage. The panel on certification issues helped attendees to explore the highly complex nature of a nationwide certification process, one with legitimacy and credibility. In what represents a significant step forward, the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare and the telephonic interpreting company Language Line Services, Inc., reported on separate initiatives that are under way to bring stakeholders together in a series of meetings to start planning for a certification process, the details of which are still being worked out. The field sorely lacks any formal mechanism for measuring competency and skill. These announcements are the first concrete step toward filling that gap.

One of the most exciting events of this year’s conference was the presentation of the first annual CHIA Trainer and CHIA Interpreter of the Year Award. Nora Goodfriend Koven, MPH, coordinator and lead instructor for the Healthcare Interpreter Program within the department of Health and Community Health Studies at City College of San Francisco, was honored for her hard work and dedication as a healthcare interpreter trainer, educator, and curriculum author. A five-member interpreting team from Stanford Medical Center, including NCTA member Charo Valesquez, received the Interpreter of the Year Award. It is particularly fitting that this award go to a team of interpreters, who, with their combined efforts, help ensure equal access to healthcare services for a wide variety of community members from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Another highlight of the conference was the Friend of CHIA Award, which was presented to Freek Lankhof, founder and owner of Intrans Book Service, a primary source for monolingual, bilingual, and multilingual dictionaries, language and translation study materials, and related publications for professional translators and interpreters. Freek was honored for his deep professional and personal commitment to helping interpreters acquire the professional tools they need to better perform the complex work they do.

The Competency or Complacency conference theme could not have been more timely. As the healthcare interpreting profession moves forward, the issue of ensuring accessible and quality services has never been more urgent. This year’s conference succeeded in providing continuing training, education, and networking opportunities for those who work hard to eliminate the barriers that prevent access to quality medical care for limited-English-proficient communities.3