Interpreter Stories

CAY Muhiyadin Aden and Elma Johnson Photo


More Than Words

Every day, HCMC welcomes patients from over 30 different countries speaking over 20 different languages—37,084 patients annually. In such a landscape, professional medical interpreters like Elma Johnson and Muhiyadin "Mo" Aden play an essential role in facilitating communication between providers and patients who speak limited English. "We see things from the eyes of the patient," said Elma. "Many of us have had similar experiences and understand their preferences, needs, and values." As Interpreter Service Supervisors, both mentor their staff on increasing awareness of and respect for the patient’s perspective to support improved health outcomes. "I enjoy my work," said Mo, "because I can make a difference for people."

Julio Perfetti


Creating Connections

Medical interpreters like Julio Perfetti play a vital role in making sure that our patients facing language barriers receive the best, most respectful care possible. Julio is the Interpreter Service Supervisor at Whittier Clinic, a neighborhood clinic owned by Hennepin County Medical Center. As a medical interpreter, Julio creates a bridge between patients and providers. Without an interpreter, patients and providers who speak different languages have a tough time getting through an encounter, and are especially challenged to come to an understanding about the plan of care. Julio’s presence is essential, but Julio himself says that a successful encounter is one in which he is almost invisible. He strives to connect patients and providers so completely that they don’t even remember that he is there. 


Nou and Yia

From The Bottom of My Heart /
Has Taag Nrho Huv Kuv Lub Sab Tuaj

Nou Moua has come to HCMC ever since she first arrived in the United States more than 30 years ago. She trusted the staff from the very start, when her provider healed a wound on her arm. Thanks to the patient-centered, culturally competent care that she has received over the years—from the doctors, nurses, and Hmong medical interpreters like Yia Vang—Nou’s trust has grown into a deep appreciation and loyalty. She says she would never consider seeing anyone else for her care. "Has taag nrho huv kuv lub sab tuaj, lub tsev khu mob nuav muaj nuj nqes rua kuv heev. Kuv yeej tau txais yaam kws kuv xaav tau hab tso sab phluav." "From the bottom of my heart, this hospital means so much to me. I feel like I get what I need and I feel safe."

Soukan Sok


Healthy Communication

Sokhan Sok, a deaf immigrant from Cambodia, has struggled in the past to find health care resources that were tailored to his unique communication needs. That is why Sokhan's participation in the Deaf Immigrant Center for Education (DICE) at HCMC has been so significant. DICE exists to help immigrant and deaf or hard of hearing patients and families communicate effectively in medical settings and the community. Through the support of professional medical interpreters and Deaf Community Health Workers, Sokhan is a more empowered, educated patient. DICE equips him with the knowledge and confidence to ask questions and make decisions about his own health care, as well as overcome the communication barriers that challenge him every day. 



Marcia Terluk

Part of the Team Again
In her native Brazil, Márcia Terluk, a trained nurse, had no problem understanding health care professionals and their difficult terminology. But in the United States, which three years ago became her new home, the Portuguese-speaker felt intimidated in medical settings. When she faced a total hip replacement surgery at Hennepin County Medical Center to correct a debilitating disorder, Márcia’s confidence was restored through professional medical interpreters. By helping her fully understand the surgery—its risks, alternatives, and possible outcomes—the interpreters empowered her to participate in her care and once again feel connected to her fellow health care professionals. The staff removed barriers and put her needs at the center. MÁrcia says that "HCMC has changed my life."