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Medical Spanish Standardization in U.S. Medical Schools

Consensus Statement From a Multidisciplinary Expert Panel

Ortega, Pilar MD; Diamond, Lisa MD, MPH; Alemán, Marco A. MD; Fatás-Cabeza, Jaime MMA, USCCI, CHI; Magaña, Dalia PhD; Pazo, Valeria MD; Pérez, Norma MD, DrPH; Girotti, Jorge A. PhD, MHA; Ríos, Elena MD, MSPH on behalf of the Medical Spanish Summit

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002917
Perspective: PDF Only

Medical Spanish (MS) education is in growing demand from U.S. medical students, providers, and health systems, but there are no standard recommendations for how to structure the curricula, evaluate programs, or assess provider performance or linguistic competence. This gap in medical education and assessment jeopardizes health care communication with Hispanic/Latino patients and poses significant quality and safety risks. The National Hispanic Health Foundation and University of Illinois College of Medicine convened a multidisciplinary expert panel in March 2018 to define national standards for the teaching and application of MS skills in patient-physician communication, establish curricular and competency guidelines for MS courses in medical schools, propose best practices for MS skill assessment and certification, and identify next steps needed for the implementation of the proposed national standards. Experts agreed on the following consensus recommendations: (1) create a Medical Spanish Taskforce to, among other things, define educational standards, (2) integrate MS educational initiatives with government-funded research and training efforts as a strategy to improve Hispanic/Latino health, (3) standardize core MS learner competencies, (4) propose a consensus core curricular structure for MS courses in medical schools, (5) assess MS learner skills through standardized patient encounters and develop a national certification exam, and (6) develop standardized evaluation and data collection processes for MS programs. MS education and assessment should be standardized and evaluated with a robust interinstitutional medical education research strategy that includes collaboration with multidisciplinary stakeholders to ensure linguistically appropriate care for the growing Spanish-speaking U.S. population.

P. Ortega is clinical assistant professor, Departments of Emergency Medicine and Medical Education, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois; ORCID:

L. Diamond is assistant attending, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service, Hospital Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York.

M.A. Alemán is professor, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and director, Comprehensive Advanced Medical Program of Spanish, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

J. Fatás-Cabeza is associate professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and director, Undergraduate Translation and Interpretation Program, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

D. Magaña is assistant professor, Department of Literature, Languages and Cultures, University of California, Merced, Merced, California.

V. Pazo is instructor, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and course director, Medical Spanish, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts.

N. Pérez is director, School of Medicine Special Programs and Hispanic Center of Excellence, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

J.A. Girotti is assistant professor, Department of Medical Education, and director, Hispanic Center of Excellence, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

E. Ríos is president, National Hispanic Health Foundation, Washington, DC.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Funding/Support: The Medical Spanish Summit was funded in part by the National Hispanic Health Foundation, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Baylor University, the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, and the Research Institute of United States Spanish.

Other disclosures: P. Ortega receives author royalties from Saunders (an imprint of Elsevier) for a textbook. N. Pérez receives author royalties from University of Texas Medical Branch.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the authors’ or expert panelists’ respective institutions.

Correspondence should be addressed to Pilar Ortega, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine, 808 S. Wood St., Suite 990, Chicago, IL 60612; email:; Twitter: @pilarortegamd.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges