September 26, 2008

Program offers Spanish lessons to VUSM students

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Program offers Spanish lessons to VUSM students

The growing Hispanic population in Nashville, across Tennessee, and throughout the country has made cultural competency and a functional knowledge of the Spanish language a vital skill for future physicians in the United States.

Vamos (Spanish for “Let's go”), a student organization at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, was created last year to address that need.

“Through Vamos, we enhance our students' cross-cultural understanding and help them become more sensitive and responsive to the needs of an important segment of the Nashville community,” said Scott Rogers, M.D., associate dean for Medical Student Affairs.

“They recognize that involvement in Vamos will help them become the type of physician they want to be.”

Third-year medical student Fiona Fang, a founding leader of the organization, said the idea behind Vamos was to create an accessible, functional and practical venue through which medical students can learn Spanish.

“We understand how dense students' schedules are, so we wanted to make the process as easy as possible. Whether you've never spoken a word of Spanish, or come to Vanderbilt already fluent, Vamos has something each student can benefit from.

“Our goal is for students to gain meaningful exposure to a language and culture that's integral to the practice of medicine, and to enjoy the process every step of the way,” Fang said.

Second-year medical student Irving Ye credits Vamos with giving him the idea and language skills to do his Emphasis research project in a Spanish-speaking country. This summer Ye spent 10 weeks in Lima, Peru, where he conducted an epidemiological study to determine the incidence of cancer in HIV-infected patients.

“Vamos helped prompt me to take medical Spanish courses, which taught me the basics of the language to survive abroad," Ye says.

“The classes allowed me to make huge improvements in my time there.”

Vamos is only open to medical students, but the organization is looking at different ways to address the growing interest in learning Spanish among faculty, residents and staff.

Medical students interested in joining VAMOS should email Fang at