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  • Dec 27, 2018

How one scary moment turned into a career

Cassia Silva and Isabel Pinto-Franco are medical interpreters at Cambridge Hospital, one of CHA's three hospitals located in communities north of Boston.

Cassia Silva rushed to CHA Cambridge Hospital one evening, in early 2000, with her daughter whose heart seemed to be beating right out of her body. Her child was treated in the Emergency Department where she received interpreter services, since Cassia and her daughter spoke Portuguese and limited English. They were originally from Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Soon after they were connected to a cardiology physician at CHA for a follow-up appointment and another medical interpreter, Isabel Pinto-Franco, began interpreting Cassia's questions to the health care team.

A graduate of Coimbra University's renowned language arts program in Portugal, Isabel arrived in the United States in the early 1990's. Her dream, since early childhood, was to find a career working in language, so she could explore the world and it's many cultures and communities.

Several years later, Isabel witnessed a passenger attempting to request water in Portuguese from airport TSA agents who seemed stumped. Isabel walked over and took it upon herself to begin interpreting. "It was so easy for me to make the conversation run smoothly for everyone," commented Isabel. "At that moment, I knew my skills could help people and that an interpreting career would be a perfect fit."

Isabel joined CHA in 1995, as one of only two medical interpreters at the time, and has been an important staple at the hospital ever since. Today, CHA is home to more than 100 medical interpreters who respond to 300,000 requests each year. [find a provider button]

"I clearly remember Cassia sharing important concerns linked to her daughter's health during the appointment and together we were able to make sure her voice was heard. Little did I know, nearly four years later we would be working side-by-side as interpreters at CHA helping some of our most vulnerable patients access care," explained Isabel.

Cassia and her family remained patients at CHA and in 2000 she graduated from the Medical & Legal Interpretation Program at Bentley University. The next year, she embarked on an interpreter internship at CHA and was partnered with Isabel who became her trainer. "Everything came full circle. First, Isabel was my family's link to health care and now she is my mentor," stressed Cassia. "We have been great friends ever since and actually sit right next to each at work!"

They both work together at Cambridge Hospital, one of CHA's three hospitals located in communities north of Boston. "If you take a moment and stand at the front desk of Cambridge Hospital you see individuals, staff and patients, from around the world speaking many languages," commented Isabel. "Our differences bring us together and enrich our own personal lives. Staff and providers at CHA make a point to create safe spaces for everyone when they receive care and we continue to learn from our patients' experiences."

Cassia's daughter recovered from that frightening evening and is now a healthy 26-year-old. She is a patient of CHA primary care physician Traci Brooks.

This articles provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.

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