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Eastern Washington University
526 5th Street
Cheney, WA 99004
phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

Devon Asmus











Michael ZukoskyProfessor, Department of Geology and Anthropology, EWU

TRiO McNair Research Internship:____________________________________________________________

Between the Two: Investigating Medical Interpretation of Disease across Language and Culture
How do medical interpreters deal with the culturally specific idea of a disease across language and culture in clinical encounters in the United States? What are the linguistic and cultural barriers to patients' understanding of a disease diagnosis, and how is this problem handled by medical interpreters? There is little research on these qualitative aspects of medical interpretation across two languages and cultures. This project explores how medical interpreters compensate for incommensurability while maintaining conceptual fidelity in medical interpretation in the Spokane, WA area and test existing theory provided by general translation and interpretation studies. Through interviews with 2 medical interpreters in the Spokane area, I highlight interpreters' own explanations of the process of interpretation and evaluate the degree to which those explanations support or refute of translation and interpretation academic theories. Results from the interviews indicate that the very words that are used to name, and subsequently interpret, a particular disease, become representative of the complex totality of illness and biological responses, that is that word.  As a result, medical interpreters processually translate culturally specific ideas of disease by being able to maintain constant awareness the complexities of the physical referent to which a particular disease is ascribed between both the doctor and the patient. Moreover, medical interpreters mediate the descriptions of a disease in terms that linguistically and culturally appropriate for the patient and fully vetted by the doctor. By doing so they overcome the primary barrier of incommensurability that largely stems from the lack of linguistically equivalent or culturally explicit terms for a given disease when translating and interpreting for the patients and doctors. Thus I argue that medical interpreters communicate this specific notion of a disease or illness directly through linguistic equivalence if possible, or expand and simplify the translation by interpreting the explanations of the disease or illness and its symptoms from the doctor to patient in a way that can be most easily understood by the parties involved. 

Conference Presentations:__________________________________________________________________

Honors and Awards:______________________________________________________________________

  • McNair Scholar Summer Internship, Awarded $2,800. The goal of the McNair Program is to increase the attainment of PhD degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society. (2014)
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