UM Communiversity course bridges the gap for healthcare workers and Spanish-speaking patients
OXFORD— Oxford oncologist Dennis Morgan and his son Joshua are preparing for a visit to Oaxaca, Mexico next year where they will tend to the medical needs of residents living in the poorest communities.
Among the challenges they will face is the language barrier when speaking about medical issues with people in the villages they will visit.
Hoping to overcome this hurdle the Morgans enrolled in the University of Mississippi Communiversity program’s “Spanish for Healthcare Professionals” class that began last week and will be offered in four evening sessions this fall.
“I spoke with a nurse practitioner who told me about the class, and it sounded like something that could be pretty useful,” Morgan said.
Morgan volunteered on a medical missions trip to Peru back in 2011. He wanted to give his son the same life-changing opportunity. After partnering with Ole Miss graduates Jeff and Lisa Holmean who are missionaries in Mexico. The city of Oaxaca became his next destination.
“We will go into people’s homes and ask if anyone needs to see a doctor,” Morgan said. “Once we are able to see a few people and establish trust, several more will come to us with their issues. Working to understand and communicate in the patients’ native language should go a long way to facilitate that trust.
“Most of these people live in huts with dirt floors and open fires,” Morgan said. “They truly do not have anything, but they are so kind to us. Once we can help address their physical issues, it opens the door for our missions team to come in and share the Gospel.”
Joshua is a junior at Oxford High School and Morgan has been practicing medicine in Oxford for 19 years.
“I have two years of high school Spanish and three years of college Spanish classes,” Morgan said. “It has been 31 years though so I felt like I needed a refresher course. The good thing is the class is very interactive. I’m learning without really knowing that I’m learning.”
The Communiversity course offered this fall is taught by Mexico-city native and UM Division of Outreach International Counselor Ari Lugo.
“This is the first time we have offered a course like this, and it has attracted a wide range of people,” Lugo said. “There are doctors, nurses, records coordinators, a nurse practitioner, and a respiratory therapist taking the class right now. The professionals who have enrolled in this course have one main thing in common. They truly want to help people to feel better.”
Lugo says that they are in talks to offer the class again in the spring and build on what is being taught.
“This has been a great class that actually fits great into my schedule,” Morgan said. “I’m learning practical terminology for the healthcare setting that I can use with my Spanish-speaking patients in Oaxaca and also here in Oxford. I can now use different words to describe pain and symptoms. This will be a very useful resource for me in the future.”