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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Student Vietnamese interpreter breaks down language barriers in medical field

Yuki To poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of To.

Yuki To moved to the United States from Vietnam when she was 7 years old. Now, she studies health science at Wichita State and uses her cultural background to help others as a medical and legal interpreter.

Growing up, To primarily used Vietnamese to communicate with her parents. She realized the importance of interpreters once she started at a medical clinic after high school, where she worked with mainly Vietnamese patients.

“I actually learned throughout the experience that I’m a very privileged person because I am bilingual,” To said. “Being able to communicate small things like ‘I need this’ or ‘I’m hurting’ those things are very, very important. I feel that I want to use the privilege I have as a bilingual individual to be able to help other people.”

To currently works as an interpreter for CJS Translation Services, where her hours vary from week to week as she chooses appointments that fit her schedule.

“I think the balance between working as a medical interpreter, court interpreter and a student is very flexible,” To said. “Anyone who is bilingual and wants to continue to hone into their second language can continue to do so, and that can really help you be able to help your community later on.”

When interpreting, To represents both the physician and the patient.

“You do not (add) any input. You only interpret what the patient says,” To said. “(Interpreters) try to minimize our presence as much as possible by being on the side and just acting as a communication strategy.”

Sometimes, interpreters may come across a word that they don’t know or can’t translate exactly. To said she likes to make note of words she doesn’t understand during appointments so she can practice and remember them later.

“One thing that’s important is that you try your best to explain,” To said. “Another important factor is that if you do have a mistake, it is really important that you address that to the physician or the lawyer … It’s really important as a medical interpreter to be able to accurately interpret as much as possible, but also reflect on your mistakes.”

Although she must minimize her presence while interpreting, To enjoys connecting with people she meets on the job.

“My favorite part of the job is meeting different types of people,” To said. “It’s really cool to see the diverse Vietnamese population and community and how much representation of the Vietnamese community we have in Wichita.”

To plans to be a physician and thinks interpreting has helped prepare her for the future.

“Working as a medical interpreter really makes me see the impact of communication and how important it is for us to continue to increase patient education,” To said. “Being there as an interpreter, I give them the ability to actually fully express how they feel … I think that made me realize how important my job is.”

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About the Contributor
Avery Gathright
Avery Gathright, Reporter
Avery Gathright is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. Gathright is a secondary education major with an emphasis in English. She hopes to eventually teach AP Literature. Gathright uses she/her pronouns.

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