Medical Interpreters Shortage
With millions of limited English speakers flooding the health care system, there are too few to help them understand it

About this project

Medical interpretations is one of California’s most overlooked medical needs. There are only 738 certified medical interpreters in the state just when federal health reform has extended coverage to 1.7 million Californians with limited English skills. Overall, 6.8 million Californians — 20 percent of the state’s potential patient population — aren’t proficient in English, according to the 2010 census. Both federal and state law make access to a medical interpreter the right of all patients who need one, just like the courts must offer an interpreter to a witness or defendant in need. But unlike the uniform qualifications required to become a court interpreter, California law doesn’t say how qualified medical interpreters must be.


Medical interpreters in short supply as health coverage grows

Vietnamese interpreter Siu Williams and her fellow linguists are in such demand at Stanford Hospital that the sprawling campus has become like a trampoline and the hallways like treadmills.

Interpreter Judit Marin: A voice that makes a difference

Judit Marin will tell you she is “just a voice,” called upon to help Bay Area Spanish speakers communicate fully with doctors who speak English – not to mention the complex language of medicine. But the 45-year-old Barcelona native and Oakland...


John Gonzales

John Gonzales

Senior writer John Gonzales specializes in the demographics of health policy. He was most recently based in New Orleans as Southern Regional Correspondent for the Associated Press. He covered efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, as well as immigration and the shifting demographics of The South. Gonzales previously was Hispanic Affairs reporter at Newsday -- a beat that took him from New York's emerging Mexican neighborhoods, to the U.S. border region, to rural Mexican towns. His "Texas Smuggling" articles won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists best breaking news award in 2004. He was also awarded The Freedom Forum’s North American Journalist Exchange fellowship in 2001. Gonzales spent the early part of his 15-year journalism career on the staffs of The Daily Breeze and the Gardena Valley News. He is a USC Annenberg graduate, with honors, and a dual major in political science. He is also a Spanish speaker and graduate of the Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program, or METPro.

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