Date of Award

Fall 12-21-2020

Thesis Access

Open Access Honors Thesis

Degree Name



Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Roxana Zuniga


During medical school future student doctors are exposed to a multitude of patients, both natives and non-natives. However, there is no course offering (such as a foreign language or culture class) provided within the curriculum that prepares them for these future interactions. With communication being one of the primary skills used in healthcare, it is imperative to discuss the effects it can cause on a patient if not established. Overall, the goal of this research is to conduct a literary investigation regarding this matter and educate the medical community about the importance of providing effective communication in medicine. This begins with acknowledging the linguistic needs of the growing minority communities in medicine and integrating language courses in a medical school’s curriculum. When language barriers are preventing such communication processes, it compromises the health and quality of treatment of the non-English speaking patient. To combat the issue of language barriers in medicine, an ideal solution would be to teach medical students another foreign language to minimize such issues. However, the problem in doing so is getting students to commit to such a course or courses and the capability of students to learn another language. There has been an extensive amount of research done on language barriers and what is known about them. However, three areas still need to be researched and further discussed within the medical community. Most research shows that patients whose main language is not English usually have a poorer understanding of the care they are receiving and are less satisfied with the quality of healthcare. When a physician speaks the patient’s native language there is an improved patient interaction, understanding, and adherence to the treatment. Minority communities are comforted, proud, and appreciative of the physicians who take the time to learn and speak their language. Science and language should work together to minimize the disparities facing minority communities in medicine.