Spanish Program is the Perfect Rx for Doctors, Staff at Lone Star Clinic

Published on: October 15, 2007

Norseman Hernandez is on call day and night for the Lone Star Community Health Center in Conroe. But it’s not patients calling him, its doctors.

Hernandez, a Montgomery College assistant professor of language and community education, is teaching Spanish to medical residents and staff of the Lone Star clinic, and the busy docs never even have to log time in a classroom. Not a real one anyway.

“We do everything online. It’s a virtual classroom where the lessons are presented and then they call me or email me for discussion,” said Hernandez, who also visits the clinic from time to time as part of the program which is offered though the college’s Language & Culture Institute.

The college pitched the continuing education course idea to Lone Star, which had already been seeking ways to increase Spanish-speakers at its facility--a 23,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art family medicine center. At the clinic, medical residents (accepted into the Conroe Medical Education Foundation’s Family Medicine Residency Program) put to use what they learned in medical school.

“With nearly half of all of the patients walking through the door being unable to speak English it’s medically necessary to be able to communicate,” said Lone Star Community Health Center’s outreach director Jay Jezierski.

Jezierski, who is in the Spanish program along with his wife, Melinda, a medical resident at the clinic, said their goal is to have all eight course participants achieve functional Spanish in the medical environment.

“We hope by the end of the program that they will be able to communicate in Spanish with patients not only to discuss their medical issues, but also to make the patients feel more comfortable,” said Jezierski. “A good deal of the doctor patient relationship is based on trust, and when they know their doctor is going above and beyond to learn how to better communicate with them, that builds on that trust.”

The Spanish course, which lasts six months, offers functional elements, but it is more than just learning how to tell patients to “Say ah” and “Where does it hurt?” said Norseman.

“It is a complex, general Spanish course consisting of vocabulary, grammar, culture, and writing and listening skills,” he said.

Jezierski said he hopes by the time they are done with the course, the Lone Star staff will be ready for a Spanish immersion trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, which the college offers on an annual basis.

“Everyone is excited about the possibility of going down and totally immersing themselves in the Mexican language and culture for a few weeks,” he said. “It will be fun to be in a foreign country and use the language in the environment where it originated.”

For more information on the Montgomery College language program and its Language & Culture Institute, contact Stephen Koszewski, program manager, at (936) 273-7435. Montgomery College is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands.

North Harris Montgomery Community College District, among the largest and fastest-growing community colleges in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, Cy-Fair College, six satellite centers and The University Center.