Bulletin of Dental Education

Students Provide Spanish Basics for Dental Care Personnel

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After studying Spanish in college and living in Costa Rica, third-year dental student Will W. Leffler recognized the large number of Hispanic people in Central Ohio, many without any ability to speak English. He thought it would be a great idea to teach a course that caters to their needs in the dental setting.

With fellow student Mr. Nick Kerns, Mr. Leffler approached the administration with the proposal. They agreed to have him teach a workshop for interested students. Although no credit would be given, several students became involved in the initiative.

The class teaches dental care personnel how to communicate without the need for an interpreter. The focus is on basic conversational Spanish usable in a dental setting. A lot of money is currently spent on providing interpreters for the students' patients. With this initiative, students could do what needs done without the cost of an interpreter.

Another student, Mr. Blake Cameron, pushed to keep the program going because "we can improve the experience Hispanic patients have at the college simply by helping them feel better understood," he said. "A provider's ability to say a simple 'Hello, how are you' and ask basic questions in their own language goes a long way to helping these patients feel more comfortable."

A handful of college staff also regularly attended the class. "I saw one instance where a staff member willingly offered to speak Spanish to a patient when no one else could. That was rewarding to see," Will recalls. "One of the greatest differences I have seen the program make is in stimulating interest in working with the Hispanic people. Any interest generated through these Spanish classes is a big step in the right direction."

The goal for summer 2010 is to have more conversational groups practice their language skills and establish the workshop organization and instruction to successfully continue into the future. The students hope to continue improving upon the workshop's outcome and increase student awareness of and interest in the initiative.

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