Johanna Parker is a CCHI Certified Healthcare Interpreter™, NBCMI Certified Medical Interpreter, and Federally and California Certified Court Interpreter; and has an M.A. in Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (Spanish <>English). She is Lead Interpreter for Education and Training at Stanford Health Care, a freelance conference interpreter and translator, and a seminar interpreter for the U.S. Department of State. Johanna trains healthcare interpreters around the country and is an adjunct professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where she teaches medical interpreting. She received CHIA's Trainer of the Year award in 2015.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
Even though I observe people with injuries and medical procedures on a daily basis, I sometimes still feel faint when I see people in pain with bloody wounds. I have to concentrate hard to remember my purpose in the session and the feeling passes.
When did you decide you want to be a medical interpreter?
In 2004 between my first and second year of graduate school at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, I completed a medical interpreting/translation internship at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. Before that point, I wanted to be a conference interpreter and I took the internship thinking I would learn a lot of terminology and specialize in medical conference interpreting. But after my amazing experience at Stanford, I realized that I enjoyed working with patients and providers, and decided that I would be both a conference and medical interpreter.
Who has been the most influential mentor/teacher for you in medical interpretation?
I think I would have to say the entire Stanford team that I met during my internship. I was so inspired by their work that it completely changed my career path. In particular, Maria Carla Faccini, a fellow MIIS alumnus and the internship coordinator when I was at Stanford, taught me how to do this work with great skill, professionalism, compassion toward patients and colleagues, and a clear understanding of the interpreter’s role and standards of practice. I should also mention Stanford colleagues Margarita Bekker and Rosario Nevado, former CHIA President and Vice-President respectively, who introduced me to this excellent professional association. Through CHIA I have learned a great deal and had the opportunity to share my knowledge in a meaningful way.
I also have to give credit to the amazing faculty at MIIS. I approach medical interpreting from a conference interpreting background and apply the consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills, as well as the research skills that I learned in the MA program on a daily basis as a medical interpreter.
What is the worst and best part of being a medical interpreter?
I think the worst part of being a medical interpreter is constantly having to fight for our patients’ right to language access, and for providers to see interpreters as skilled members of the medical team, not just someone who happens to speak a second language performing a task that any bilingual person, even a child, could do.
The best part of being a medical interpreter for me is helping patients and their families communicate with providers during some of the best and worst moments of their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. I consider it a great honor. I always feel very satisfied and proud of my work when I see a real emotional connection between the patient and provider at the end of a session.
Words of wisdom for people starting out in medical interpretation?
Seek out all of the training opportunities you can! Don’t try to scrape by with the bare minimum. Starting with an internship where you have the chance to observe skilled interpreters and get their feedback on your work, will make you a much better interpreter! And once you are certified and working as an interpreter, continue working to improve your skills and knowledge base.