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Interpreter Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Equity Award

Susy Molano, certified medical interpreter (CMI) at the Portland Shriners Hospital, was recently honored with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity, presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health. This award is given each year to a leader who has made outstanding contributions towards achieving health equity and implemented system changes in their community.

“I feel very blessed to work with an organization with such a noble and generous mission, alongside a group of amazing and committed professionals serving members of my community. I see miracles every day,” Susy said when asked about her work at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland.

This recognition is well-deserved for Susy, who has worked tirelessly throughout her career as an interpreter to improve access to quality health care for limited English proficient communities.

“Health care interpreters are part of the medical team and are a key element in the delivery of appropriate health care for limited English proficiency patients,” said Susy. “It is impossible to attain health equity without culturally competent health care providers and interpreters working as a team with limited English proficiency patients and families.”

As it stands, current Oregon law does not require interpreters to receive additional certification prior to working in a health care setting. For limited English proficient patients and families, this can affect the quality of medical care they receive. An underqualified interpreter may not be able to effectively communicate the details of a procedure or what a provider is asking of the patient. To create an environment of trust where the patient feels cared for and understood, it is important that interpreters working in a health care setting are properly trained.

“Susy has advocated for interpreters in the state of Oregon for years to give non-native speaking patients and families direct access to health care,” said Carmen Ayala-Bittner, CMI at the Portland Shriners Hospital. “She enlisted the Portland Shiners Hospital’s support at the onset of OHCIA's education program, effectively placing Shriners [Hospital] as a key player facilitating the certification of hundreds of medical interpreters in the Portland-metro area and beyond.”

Being the social justice warrior that Susy is, she sought to create a community comprised of a multidisciplinary body of individuals to work to define the standards for the language access industry for health care providers. This community, founded by Susy in 2010, became known as the Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association (OHCIA), and has been instrumental in addressing the need for cultural and linguistic competency to improve quality of care for limited English proficient families. This multidisciplinary body of interpreters continues to advocate for the creation of a licensing board for health care interpreting, as well as provide clear parameters, support and accountability for health care interpreting.

In addition to her broad support for health equity through various associations across the state, Susy works at the Portland Shriners Hospital providing interpretive services for Spanish-speaking families and patients receiving care. She is passionate about her role at the hospital and does whatever she can to ensure patients and families feel comfortable and have a positive hospital experience. Her peers and coworkers also recognize this compassionate, above-and-beyond care that Susy strives to provide.

“Susy has a way of interacting with people that makes them feel understood, important and cared for,” said Linda Ewbank, CMI at the Portland Shriners Hospital. “They know they can rely on her not only to faithfully convey what they want to communicate, but also to look out for their needs in a medical system that is unfamiliar to them.”

Susy has been a vital member of the Portland Shriners Hospital team for 18 years, and we’re so proud of her for being honored for her incredible work toward health equity.


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