“English or Español?” Second-year medical student Whitney Weinschenk said asking that simple question elicited sighs of relief from some attendees during a recent community baby shower in Florence, Ky. 

Weinschenk volunteered at the event alongside staff and providers from St. Elizabeth Healthcare, our clinical partner in the region. Sponsored by Northern Kentucky Pregnancy Care Network, the baby shower hosted more than 400 attendees, many of whom speak Spanish or French as their primary language. New moms attending the event received blankets, diapers, wipes, and clothes. Raffles were held for larger items, like car seats, high chairs, and strollers as well. 

Weinschenk, who handed out blankets during the event, was able to practice her Spanish-speaking skills and offer bilingual assistance to those in need. For Weinschenk, this was another stepping stone toward her goal of providing language-concordant care to her future patients. 

It was also personal. 

When Weinschenk’s family emigrated from Mexico, they decided to forgo speaking and learning Spanish to help them better assimilate to U.S. culture. During her undergraduate tenure, Weinschenk sought to reclaim that part of her cultural identity by double-majoring in Spanish and biochemistry. 

CanopyLearn, a medical Spanish e-learning program, has also been a useful tool for Weinschenk since joining the College of Medicine. CanopyLearn access was granted to all faculty, residents, learners, and staff across the College of Medicine campuses last Fall, a result of collaborative efforts between the UK College of Medicine-Northern Kentucky Campus and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

“Having this course has been nice because I don’t get to practice Spanish in my daily life,” shared Weinschenk. “I try and log on to CanopyLearn for 15 minutes every day. It’s really nice because it’s more than just medical terms—you start from the beginning, learning actual Spanish conversation skills, too.” 

In the future, Weinschenk hopes to practice surgery. She is also very interested in global health and the overlapping opportunities that exist given the need for global surgeons worldwide. 

“Wherever you go, you’re going to need to communicate with other people. Speaking the same language as our patients will help put them at ease and build a stronger rapport,” said Weinschenk. “Kentucky has a high refugee population too. We will see patients who need access to care in another language.” 

CanopyLearn, a Spanish language training program for health care professionals, includes 40 hours of instructional content broken down into simple 15-minute modules. There are 36 total lessons spanning three levels with multiple learning modes. The interactive modules are intended to provide a more holistic active learning experience and include grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary for 36 medical specialties. Those interested in signing up can click here to register.