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Philadelphia medical students work to overcome language barriers for Latino patients

How a group of medical students are helping Latino patients overcome language barriers
How a group of medical students are helping Latino patients overcome language barriers 01:56

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Let's be honest -- visiting the doctor can be nerve wrecking and hard.

If you don't speak the same language as the healthcare professional, it's even more challenging. 

A group of medical students are working to overcome language barriers for Latino patients. 

For first year medical student Maria Pazan, medicine has always been her passion.  

"It was like my 11-year-old dream, basically," Pazan said. 

While growing up in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Pazan says she didn't see many people who looked like her wearing white coats.  

"There's a lot of barriers I think in general to make it here with my background and for a lot of people there are a lot of barriers," Pazan said. 


After becoming a nurse, she's now at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she's giving other students a crash course in Spanish with the Latino Medical Student Association.  

The group welcomes students from all cultural backgrounds.

"We have a specific group of students that are part of a global healthcare initiative group, and they go on mission trips to underserved countries," Pazan said. 

This year, students will be visiting Honduras.  

But before these medical students head out, they're learning basic Spanish phrases, medical terms in various dialects and different customs to better serve Latino patients.  

"I think it shows to the Latino patient that 'OK, here's this student who's trying to speak my language,'" Pazan said. 

She shares how something as simple as dates can get lost in translation.

In many Spanish-speaking countries, people often give the day before the month, instead of month then day.  

"It's something so minimal, but if someone is born on March 4th, then it can be completely different," Pazan said. 

Pazan says just exposure to the language can go a long way in relating more to patients.  

"It's possible and that you can do it and that si se puede," Pazan said. 

Organizers say there are two more workshops throughout the month of May to further educate students.

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