Designated Interpreters: A Model to Promote the Diversity and Inclusion of Deaf Professionals in Academic Medicine

Acad Med. 2019 May;94(5):697-700. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002570.

Abstract

Problem: Deaf professionals who use American Sign Language (ASL) are a growing population in academic medicine. Reasonable accommodations for this group include providing an ASL interpreter. Many institutions contract with external agencies to provide ad hoc interpreters, but this model has hidden costs for deaf professionals and institutions.

Approach: The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (URSMD) uses the designated interpreter model in which interpreters are on staff and embedded with deaf professionals so they can learn both the work environment and the deaf professionals' specialized science and medicine content. This model addresses many of the limitations of the external agency approach and better facilitates the inclusion of deaf professionals in the institution.

Outcomes: This model has been in use at URSMD since 1990 but has seen exponential growth recently (increasing from 3 deaf professionals with designated interpreters in 2011 to a peak of 17 in 2016). Designated interpreters have worked in different research and clinical settings from dentistry and nursing to community and global health. This growth highlights the increasing number of deaf professionals in medicine and the need to train more designated interpreters.

Next steps: In response to this growing demand, URSMD is developing an ASL Interpreting in Medicine and Science program, a master's degree-level program to train interpreters who are bilingual in ASL and English to be designated interpreters. The designated interpreter model is one step toward creating an environment that is fully inclusive of deaf professionals to the benefit of the whole institution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Education of Hearing Disabled / organization & administration*
  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sign Language*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires