The Lied Pediatric Clinic faced a challenge. More than half of the clinic’s young patients and their families spoke only Spanish, and most of their doctors spoke only English.
While the clinic’s bilingual staff could help out as interpreters occasionally, their time was limited by all of their other duties.
The clinic’s chief resident, Dr. Jeff Yu, wondered if UNLV students could provide a solution. He reached out to Elena Gandía García, an associate professor-in-residence in UNLV’s world languages and cultures department.
Gandía García answered the call to help by working with Yu to create a service-learning component for her SPAN 317 Interpretation I course, to address the clinic’s needs. She developed and implemented an individual community-based participatory project, the Training Project for Ad Hoc Medical Interpreters (TPAHMI), to address the clinic’s need.
Her work leading this course and the project recently earned Gandía García the office of community engagement’s 2020 Service-Learning Award.
“For the past three years, my students and I have worked to develop and implement an individual community-based participatory project that supports the clinic,” Gandía García said. “Each year, more students participate and keep helping out even when the class is over.”
Her course provides opportunities for UNLV students to practice what they are learning in class. It also helps students develop professional skills, explore career paths they might be interested in pursuing after they graduate, and connect with future employers.
Perhaps most importantly, participation in the TPAHMI program helps students develop a sense of responsibility to use their education to help address community challenges, according to Yu.
“Through this partnership, students are able to engage with their community by serving both providers and our Las Vegas children,” said Yu in his letter supporting Gandía García’s award application. “By providing volunteer interpreters, Dr. Gandía García helped solve a community problem, namely our lack of in-person interpretation services, which was hindering and providing suboptimal care of the children of Spanish-speaking-only parents.”
The creation of the TPAHMI program also resulted in cross-campus collaboration. UNLV’s office of service learning and leadership provided Gandía García with advice and assisted her with completion of the paperwork to formalize the partnership with the Lied Pediatric Clinic.
She also shared her experiences in leading the service-learning course in UNLV’s 2018 Best Teaching Practices Expo and received recognition there.
Faculty members in other areas of the university reached out to her to express an interest in expanding her program to include their clinics. For example, faculty in UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law and the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art have explored the benefits of having interpreters assist their Spanish-speaking clients at the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinics and at Barrick Museum, respectively.
Additionally, Gandía García’s contributed to the College of Liberal Arts service-learning pilot study last year, which helped her colleagues better understand service-learning strategies and techniques.
“Dr. Gandía García was able to put her experience to work mentoring other instructors and helping to further the college’s goal of creating a culture of service learning,” said Denise Tillery, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Jennifer Keene, dean of UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts, said Gandía García’s efforts also support the university’s community engagement goals, including advancing opportunities for student engagement in the community.
“Dr. Gandía García offers an example of how faculty in humanities fields can develop courses that help students use the knowledge they develop in their undergraduate courses to meet real needs in the community,” said Keene. “She is a strong role model of engagement throughout our college.”
The UNLV office of community engagement established four universitywide awards in 2016 to recognize campus individuals for their exceptional community engagement in the areas of service-learning, community-based research, faculty/staff community outreach, and student service.