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Jan. 26, 2017 - USA Medical Students Participate in Medical Spanish Interest Group

USACOMSI001.JPGThe Medical Spanish Interest Group (MSIG) at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine aims to teach students how to effectively communicate with the Hispanic community by exposing students to a different language and culture.

According to Mary Morgan Weed, a third-year medical student at USA and president of MSIG, the interest group serves as a platform for students and members of the Hispanic community to unite and break any language or cultural barriers.

Various Spanish-speaking USA faculty members, undergraduate students and high school Spanish teachers help the students learn the language by acting as patients. Following a script, the volunteers and students simulate medical scenarios on topics ranging from the flu to lung disease.

Weed said Dr. Diego Alvarez, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine, has played an instrumental role in the success of the group. “We would not be able to make this club happen without the help of our Spanish-speakers and our sponsor, Dr. Alvarez, who helped us connect with many of the volunteers,” she said.

“It is important to highlight that the medical students took the initiative to organize this interest group,” Dr. Alvarez said. “While participating in clinical rotations, many students realized the need for learning how to communicate with the growing number of Spanish-speaking patients visiting our health system.”

According to Dr. Alvarez, the Hispanic community is projected to become the largest minority population by the mid-2020s, making it important for medical students to learn how to communicate effectively. “There is ample evidence indicating that health literacy and proper communication with health care providers improves the outcome of patients who do not speak English,” he said.

The club also volunteers at Belong, a local non-profit organization that provides resources to immigrant families. Trevor Stevens, a second-year medical student at USA and vice president of MSIG, said volunteering with Belong is extremely beneficial to medical students because it serves as an opportunity to build trust between the Hispanic population of Mobile and the health care community.

“At Belong, we help Hispanic students with their elementary school homework, interact with immigrant families, play with the kids and speak English with them,” he said. “As a result medical students are able to expand their own experiences and horizons, making Belong beneficial to each volunteer.”

MSIG will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in the Medical Sciences Building first floor auditorium. All USA medical students are invited to join.

For more information, contact Mary Morgan Weed at or join the USACOM Medical Spanish Interest Group page on Facebook.

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