Notes from the 2013 IMIA International Conference

SONY DSCThis past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the conference of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), which was held for the first time outside Boston. Luckily for me, the chosen venue was the Miami Beach Convention Center, so without hesitation, and although I am not a member of IMIA, I seized the opportunity to participate in this important event.

As a translator, one of my main areas of specialization is medical and healthcare, so attending this conference was a natural fit for me. However, a close examination of the schedule revealed there were just a handful of sessions that would be relevant for a translator. I decided to attend one of the two 8-hour medical terminology boot camps offered on Friday.

It only took me a few minutes to realize both boot camps were great… for interpreters. They presented a lot of practical situations, how to deal with certain challenges while interpreting, etc. At the very least, I figured I could use the handouts, but I was told there were none.

I was a bit disappointed during my first hours of conference, but quickly realized that if I was going to make the most out of the conference, I would have to switch tactics and stop thinking as a translator. What have I learned from all the T&I conferences I have attended through the years? Networking. This is one of the most valuable byproducts of any industry-related event. I had my business cards ready and I started handed them like a croupier, as Xosé Castro would say.

The conference was a great way to get a closer look into the life of a medical interpreter, especially through the numerous panel discussions held on Saturday, and the Sunday workshops. I have been entertaining the idea of taking the certification exam through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, and the conference sessions plus the priceless opportunity to talk directly with experienced medical interpreters, helped me get a better picture. I am still undecided, but I will continue to look into this.

I was very impressed with IMIA’s commitment to promoting the profession and encouraging the use of certified medical interpreters, as well as their advocacy efforts. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how standardized this field is.

Mr. Guadalupe Pacheco at the 2013 IMIA International Conference
Mr. Guadalupe Pacheco at the 2013 IMIA International Conference

Through the presentation from the keynote speaker, Mr. Guadalupe Pacheco, I learned about the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health Care; the wonderful website portal Think Cultural Health, and a wealth of statistics about the soaring Hispanic population.

It was very interesting to see the new trend of remote video interpreting in a healthcare setting, and I had the opportunity to listen to the experience of telephone interpreters in various healthcare-related settings. I find it fascinating but dangerous at the same time, as I learned in one of the workshops about vicarious trauma.

After three days of mingling with medical interpreters, one cannot help but admire the work they do, and their invaluable contribution to bettering the life of limited language proficient individuals in need of care. Their work truly extends beyond the words.


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