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Diversity / Medical Spanish Elective

Medical Spanish/Latino Health Elective (MSLHE)

After two years of design and implementation, the Medical Spanish/Latino Health Elective (MSLHE) welcomed its first class during the 2013-2014 academic year! The MSLHE is an innovative three-year longitudinal course that aims to prepare students to deliver culturally-proficient and linguistically competent care to the Latino community.


  • Latin Americans make up over 18% of the US population and Spanish is the primary language of more than 13% of all Americans.
  • Significant health disparities affect Latinos in the US, including obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, violence, and HIV/AIDs.
  • Studies show that patients whose health care provider speaks the same language have improved satisfaction with their health care. 
  • There is a strong interest from medical students and residents to improve their Spanish-speaking skills and cultural competency both at UCCOM and around the country. 

Course Overview

  • Three-year longitudinal curriculum that includes training in medical Spanish, didactics in topics related to care of Latino patients, and service-learning at community agencies.
  • Offered to approximately 25 students per year.
  • Students earn four weeks of elective credit towards the fourth year.
  • Medical Spanish training includes:
    • 40-hour online, self-directed Spanish course via Canopy.
    • Four-week summer intensive Medical Spanish course taught in July by UC Spanish Professor Ligia Gomez.
  • Regular simulated patient encounters with Spanish speaking standardized patients.
  • Engagement in frequent service-learning opportunities in the local community and abroad.
  • Evening didactic session covering various topics of culture and medicine including:
    • Enrique’s Journey Book discussion
    • Care of Latino patients with diabetes
    • Access to Care for Latinos
    • The Neuro Exam in Spanish
    • Care of Latinx Women and Children
    • Mental Health in Latino Populations
    • DACA and the unaccompanied minor immigration crisis
    • Cancer and Palliative care in Latino populations
    • The Health Status of Latinos in Cincinnati
    • Trauma informed care of immigrants

Meet our MSLHE students and hear their thoughts on the course!

"I love that the University of Cincinnati has this program that lets me grow as a doctor and a Spanish-speaker at the same time. It gives us the opportunity to develop fluency and help other medical students build their capacity, while gaining real-world experience making a difference for a special-needs population. This program is great for anyone hoping to work with the Latino community, either in the Cincinnati area, nationally, or internationally."

- Christopher Moriss, Class of 2017

"MSLHE is a wonderful program for me because it allows me to get proficiency in medical Spanish and have continued education and practice in speaking and working with local Spanish speaking populations. I wanted to do this because I've been speaking Spanish since I was 13 and I love the language. This program gives me the opportunity to help an underserved population now and in future practice. It also gives my application an edge since Spanish speaking doctors are few and far between."

- Ellie Farr, Class of 2017

Joining the UCCOM medical Spanish elective was a no-brainer for me after seeing the impact of translators through previous undergrad experiences volunteering at free clinics. Now as a future doctor, it's important to note that the Hispanic population in the US is growing at an exponential rate and the language barrier among many things is a huge obstacle towards the care of these patients. The flexible, well-rounded, and valuable educational experience I get through this program brings me closer towards building better rapport and connecting with Spanish-speaking patients in the effort to improve the healthcare they receive."

- Sheheryar Jamali, Class of 2017

For questions about the elective, please contact the course directors, Dr. Christy O’Dea and Dr. Brittany Almaraz.

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Contact Us

Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
Medical Sciences Building
Suite E-251
231 Albert Sabin Way
PO BOX 670552
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0552

Mail Location: 0552

Phone: 513-558-4898

FAX: 513-558-1100