An interview with Pedro Diaz, Interpreters Division Guest Speaker

With the ATA 59th Annual Conference quickly approaching, guest speakers are getting ready for their big day in October. Interpreters Division Administrator Carol Velandia caught up with Pedro Díaz, the Interpreters Division Guest Speaker, to get some of his thoughts. Here’s the interview.
Juan Pino-Silva, Blog Editor


Pedro Diaz - ATA59 ID Guest Speaker

Pedro Diaz

Carol Velandia: How did you go from interpreter to manager? What skills did you develop during your time as an interpreter and how?

Pedro Diaz: My interpreter journey began working for an inner city non-profit organization that provided services to a large number of refugees and Spanish-speaking immigrants in inner city Baltimore.  It was really this experience that shaped my desire to pursue a role not only as an interpreter, but a desire to get involved in leadership roles in healthcare in order to support the unique needs of Limited English Proficient patients and families.  Back then I didn’t know quite how I was going to do it until I assumed a new interpreter role in a large health system.  I guess I was in the right place and at the right time.  Thanks to a wonderful mentor, I became more involved in the daily operations of the department and realized that I was more effective as an interpreter the more I understood how the health system worked.  Not only my medical terminology improved but also my confidence working, negotiating and managing expectations with providers and members of the administration.  Gradually I volunteered to take on new projects and was able to discover other skills.  I was fortunate to work next to excellent professionals that also shared their knowledge with me.  My eagerness to learn more and more led me to take management roles in clinical operations and project management with patient experience initiatives.  I am so happy to be able to use these skills to lead the Children’s National Health Systems Language Services program into the next level.

Carol Velandia: What do you think interpreters can do better in order to help hospital administrators achieve their operations goals?

Pedro Diaz; I believe that learning about the business operations about the programs that an interpreter is involved is of immense help for hospital administrators.  Interpreters have a great insight of the needs and issues that pertain to the LEP populations they support.  Also, the knowledge base acquired by a team of interpreters can be of great help to providers. Last but not least, professional collegiality is of great importance in a team of interpreters and the profession as a whole. I am fortunate to have an amazing team working with me and watching them maintaining positive relationships with each other and holding each other accountable to maintain a high level of professionalism and service is something that, as a leader of the program, is one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of my role.  It does take a team of Medical Interpreters to treat a child.

Carol Velandia: What do you think hospitals can do better in order to help interpreters succeed?

Pedro Diaz: I believe that things have improved tremendously since my beginnings as a Medical Interpreter back in 2003. Yet, there is always room for improvement.  Being an interpreter myself and at the same time an administrator I am thinking of this question in three different components: people, process, and environment.

People. Hospitals should ensure the role of the interpreter, the Language Program and how to access the available resources is introduced early on during employee orientation and part of all departmental onboarding and orientations.  This helps not only staff, patients and families but helps supporting interpreters during their daily interactions with staff.  Also, ensure the interpreter’s compensation is adequate and fair.

“Interpreters have a great insight of the needs and issues that pertain to the LEP populations they support.”

Process: Hospitals should have a reliable electronic database that supports interpretation assignment and productivity.  Data  help program expansion and also allow for conversations on performance at the institutional, program and individual levels.  Sharing this information with interpreters also helps staff understand how important their role is since they are all a key piece of the bigger picture.  Another way hospitals can help interpreters succeed is by providing educational opportunities that are relevant to their role. Cross training interpreters on different areas whether is ambulatory, acute care, inpatient care and emergency care for example are great tools to ensure interpreters expand their knowledge and are able to respond as required.

Environment. Hospitals should foster an environment where the interpreter is seen as a member of the treating team.  Having policies that address organizational expectations regarding the provision of Language Access Services, Bilingual Staff Language Competency and including the appropriate use of Language Access Services as a potential safety risk in the safety event reporting system used by the institution.

Carol Velandia: Any thoughts on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to medical interpretation?

Pedro Diaz: As strengths, I am happy to see more and more interpreters pursuing certification. It is definitely a step in the right direction. I have also seen a larger interest in colleges and universities attempting to provide formal training on interpretation and translation. The need is there and it will continue to expand.

I am not sure I would use the work weakness but I see it more as a deficit.  At least in my region, higher education programs focus mostly in conference interpretation.  However, I see the lack of training on Community/Medical Interpreting.  Community/Medical interpreting is where the large number of job opportunities exists and having candidates prepared and skilled to fulfill these roles is very important.

Last, but not least, I see a great opportunity on the growth of interpretation services via Video Remote interpreting platforms.  I think it is worth for institutions to further explore this option since it provides an additional level of access and also creates more job opportunities for interpreters in the field.

Carol Velandia: What are your thoughts on joining the ATA conference as speaker? What are your expectations?

Pedro Diaz: I am thrilled about presenting at the ATA Annual Conference.  It will be such an honor to share my experiences and story with such a distinguished group of professionals.  I find it inspiring to see how, as an interpreting community, we are moving forward and, particularly in healthcare, continue to contribute to enhance patient safety, patient care and the overall patient experience.


Mark Your Calendar!

  • It Takes a Village of Medical Interpreters to Care for a Child, Part I (Thursday, Oct. 25th, 2:00PM – 3:00PM) and Part II (3:30PM – 4:30PM)



Permanent link to this article:

%d bloggers like this: