VCU Wright Center COVID trials expanded with the help of medical language services

Clara Dutari is bilingual, interpreting for Spanish-speaking patients at VCU Health. But she doesn’t just convert words, like a Spanish-English dictionary. She provides context, nuance and intuition to improve communication.

One of six interpreters and translators at VCU Medical Center, Dutari sometimes sees patients nodding as their doctor speaks, but she can tell just by looking that the patients don’t understand. She questions their comprehension and fills in the gaps. On the other side of the coin, when interpreting from Spanish to English, Dutari inserts any cultural nuance reflected in the patients’ dialect to ensure their doctor’s complete understanding.

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The language services team also makes it possible for non-English speakers to join COVID-19 clinical trials.

Clinical trials give patients choices, especially important in the midst of a new virus with few approved treatments. If there are no interpreters and translators to ensure that a non-English-speaking patient understands the risks and benefits of a trial, the patient doesn’t have this option.

Translators bring that option to Latinx patients by translating pages of important documents, such as consent forms and discharge instructions. And interpreters like Dutari ensure that clinical trial investigators and patients are on the same page – literally and figuratively.

“The participation of diverse populations improves the reliability of study results and the health advancement that clinical trials bring to all patient care,” says Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., associate director at the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

“The interpreters and translators are essential to our ability to expand access to the trials. They’ve really gone above and beyond during the pandemic.”

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan