Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States, and by 2060, Hispanics will comprise 28% of the total US population.1 It is therefore likely that every genetic counselor (GC) will encounter Spanish-speaking patients during their career. Geographically speaking, some clinics may have more Spanish-speaking patients than others. As a genetic counselor in Texas for instance, I regularly served Spanish-speaking patients.
A few years ago, I was approached by Boise State’s Program Director, Jennifer Eichmeyer. She introduced me to a student, Angie Kapely, who was interested in creating a club where students could practice their Spanish. I loved this idea and signed up to lead discussions and recruit other GCs to mentor interested students. Thanks to word of mouth, I received an incredible amount of interest in the club. Clearly, there was a need for the development of Spanish language skills!
By luck I met Charité Ricker, who helped guide some Spanish language meetings. Interest in the club continued to grow, and networks like the Spanish GC group (organized by Susy Malca and Charité) as well as the Minority Genetic Professionals Network facilitated connections with GCs with similar interests. We developed a survey to see if the numbers would reflect a significant enough interest to develop a more formal organization, like a Special Interest Group (SIG). Within a few weeks, we had almost 200 responses. That was enough evidence to initiate the application to create the Spanish Development SIG.
As a SIG, our goal is to help those interested in developing their Spanish language skills, regardless of level. We hope to provide opportunities across the fluency continuum, from advanced speakers learning subtle dialectal variations or terminology used in certain countries, to beginners learning to introduce themselves and take a simple family history. Furthermore, with the wealth of cultural backgrounds and experiences that each member brings, we hope to create a safe space for all, foster mentoring opportunities and promote peer-to-peer support.
As the SIG grows, we hope to collaborate with other NSGC SIGs and connect with those who may be interested in research and education within Spanish-speaking communities. Long-term, we would like to identify funding for students interested in researching underserved Spanish-speaking communities. We additionally hope to foster collaborations with other groups that have overlapping interests and amplify our efforts to expand resources for Spanish education.
We have a lot of big ideas for the SIG’s future. I often run before I walk, but with the support of SIG members and native speakers, we plan to make a difference that will impact providers and patient care. Ultimately, we aim to enhance the Spanish skills of genetic counselors to better serve our communities and we would love you to join in our mission!
1US Census Bureau. (2021, October 8). Hispanic Population to Reach 111 Million by 2060. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2020/comm/us-hispanic-population-growth.html