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Helping Spanish-speakers understand treatment options

In honor of Global Diversity Awareness Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re amplifying the voices of VCU Health team members with diverse perspectives and experiences who are helping others in their communities. Here, Liliana Valladares, senior office coordinator in our language services department, describes her life experiences.

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Liliana Valladares headshot

Why did you become interested in your profession?

Growing up bilingual has been a blessing. I grew up helping my family and even strangers at grocery stores or just anywhere I went. It’s always been an instinct to reach out to help others, especially when language was a barrier. 

I started at a young age working and volunteering throughout the Richmond community at local clinics as a medical assistant/Spanish interpreter, in which my passion for this field blossomed. Being able to help others communicate is not only a privilege but also just wholeheartedly rewarding. 

Now with my current role as senior program coordinator in the language services department, I am able to encompass all my medical and interpreting experience to coordinate and dispatch amazing interpreters to help patients throughout VCU Health. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

All the beautiful smiles! Although we can’t see them through masks, I know patients are smiling! One of the most rewarding moments when I worked as VCU Medical Interpreter was when I would arrive to a patient appointment and see how their eyes would light up with joy with a huge smile, grateful that they will have their communication needs met.

Why do you think it’s important for there to be diversity in health care?

Diversity is everywhere and it’s beautiful! We all bring different experiences from our diverse backgrounds that we can learn from each other. It’s essential for VCU to provide culturally competent care for all patients.

What are some challenges or misconceptions that the community you serve faces?

Our community is strong and resilient. But one of the biggest challenges that I have seen throughout VCU is our non-English speakers not feeling empowered to speak up and state their rights for clear communication. They deserve as much of clear understanding as English speakers. It brings me so much joy when a non-English speaking patient stands up for him/herself that they require an interpreter, whether in person or over the phone for a visit, and does not want to just “get by” the visit. 

How do you support diverse communities at VCU Health, including non-English speakers or the deaf and hard of hearing (HOH)?

Being opened minded and compassionate! As a team, our office empowers our patients and staff with education and knowledge how to serve the non-English speakers, deaf and HOH community best. We help them navigate difficult linguistic and cultural situations. 

Do you have any advice for patients who may be struggling with the tragedies happening in the world right now, and/or discrimination or injustices they may face each day in their own lives?

Stand strong! Even when you feel like you have no more strength. Have the confidence that you will get through this difficult time, even if you are taking it one day at a time. Also, stand together and don’t hate! Put yourself in someone’s situation and imagine if you were going through those difficult times.