New Immersion Spanish Course Launched February 2021

Sara Pirtle | May 27, 2021

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As part of the UNMC lead, multi campus initiative developed by the UNMC Office of Global Engagement, UNMC’s College of Medicine joined forces with the linguistics department at the University of Anáhuac Veracruz (UAV) in Xalapa, Mexico to create a new Immersion Spanish M4 elective held in Omaha in February 2021.  The course featured 1:1 virtual individualized instruction (determined by the student’s level of Spanish language skills) for six hours per day, five days per week, for three weeks.  Instruction was provided by the UAX linguistics faculty, under the direction of Rocío Ríos Rojas.  In addition to the intensive Spanish language instruction, the participants received six virtual lectures, given in English, including a lecture about the health care system in Mexico.

For the fourth week of the elective, students attended lectures on LatinX health, participated in journal club review of articles related to LatinX topics, participated in online learning modules in Spanish, and had the opportunity to virtually shadow a social worker of a local health system that works closely with the LatinX community. The experience cumulated with each student delivering a presentation on the social determinants of health for the LatinX population in Omaha on the last day of the rotation, with post-presentation discussion.  

Five fourth-year medical students participated in the Immersion Spanish course, directed to Shirley Delair, MD, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion; director of pediatric global health; and chief, division of pediatrics infectious diseases; and Melanie Menning, MD, associate program director family medicine residency-urban underserved program and assistant medical director, OneWorld Community Health Center.  Lectures and discussions during the fourth week were led by Dr. Delair, Dr. Menning, and Armando de Alba, MD, assistant dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion student programs and assistant professor, family medicine.

The lectures were offered in various formats, from formal presentations to discussions about current events and journal articles.  Some of the lectures and readings were conducted in Spanish.  At the end of the week, students made presentations tailored to their respective residency choices, in order to identify barriers and challenges that the LatinX population faces.  These topics addressed dermatology, family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, medicine/pediatrics, and general surgery.  The students contrasted the care in Mexico to the care in the US.

Variations of the Immersion Spanish course are offered for UNMC residents, health care professionals, and community members, including a non-credit version for UNMC students. 

UNMC, through the Office of Global Engagement, has been offering Medical Spanish/Global Health Courses in Latin America since 2000.  The current course offering is based on the traditional four-week course model that takes place in the host country, and has been adapted to the limitations caused by COVID-19.  This Immersion Spanish course is one of the joint collaborations initiated through the multifaceted partnership between UNMC, UNO, and UAV.

Watch a video from the February 2021 student group: