Station InitiativesWellness Wednesday


Transplant clinic for Spanish speakers fills important health care gap

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jun 26, 2024

Wellness Wednesday is sponsored by Intermountain Health

Have you visited or lived in another country and tried to communicate with limited knowledge of their language. It’s humbling. It can be scary. And that’s when you’re trying to figure out a train schedule. What if you face something like major surgery?

Intermountain Health is pushing a new effort to bridge the language gap for transplant patients.

“Something that is unique about the Hispanic population is that when they feel overwhelmed, and you can try that, and you are just asking a question people say yes, yes, yes. Because what they're thinking is, I just really want to get out of here,” said Dr. Alan Contreras, a transplant surgeon for Intermountain Health, confirming what academic surveys show.

One study found Spanish speaking patients with limited English proficiency were three times more likely to say their health condition was not resolved when they visited a clinic.

“I remember a case when somebody was saying this patient doesn't want to come to the to the clinic. And when I finally got to talk to him, he didn't understand that he was supposed to come frequently for those visits,” said Contreras.

To help ensure all patients receive the care they need, Dr. Contreras is leading Intermountain Health’s Spanish language transplant clinic.

“Whenever we have patients to be seen in the in the clinic, we try to have everybody there, that is gonna be helpful for that appointment. So, we have a surgeon, we have a PP, we have a nurse, we have social worker, everybody who speaks Spanish, and they can work with you and the limitations,” he said.

A common language helps communicate and educate. It also makes it easier to simply relate.

“I remember a patient who was really opposed to receive a kidney from one of his sons or daughters. He was thinking that he didn't want to put them to this risk. But interestingly, they all wanted to be donors. And I was explaining to him, listen, if it was the other way around, if they needed a kidney, would you be willing to give it to them? And he said, right away, yes, of course, they are my daughters, they're my sons, I want to do that for them,” said Contreras.

That story was about a father, a role important to Contreras.

“I keep telling this to my daughters, right, I have done 1000s of surgeries. And inside, we all look the same. And I just want to be sure when somebody comes into the door, it doesn't matter, their beliefs, it doesn't matter the color of the skin, they're going to have the same access to care,” he said.

The primary focus of the Spanish language clinic is kidney transplants. The clinic is a team within the transplant program at Intermountain Medical Center. There aren’t many programs like it, and they’ve seen steady demand since starting in September.