Sunnyside Community Hospital, in an effort to better serve the community, has been working to recruit providers who are able to speak Spanish.
The hospital's public relations director, Tom Lathen, said there are a number of health care providers at the hospital and its clinics who have learned through their exposure to patients the language. Some physicians and other health care professionals have gone the extra mile to learn Spanish through studies outside of their regular daily tasks.
The providers, he said, have seen a need. "Many of our current staff have worked hard on their own time to improve their Spanish-speaking skills," said Lathen.
Because the community has a large population of Spanish speakers, the hospital in its search for new physicians and care providers has recruited three new doctors who are bilingual.
Drs. Patrick Moran at Lincoln Avenue Family Medicine in Sunnyside, Derek Weaver at Grandview's Birch Street Medical Center and Ana Garcia, who has not yet arrived, are all fluent in the Spanish language.
Weaver learned to speak the language while immersed in Guatemala. For two years he served as a missionary in that country. After serving in the mission field, his skills were utilized for teaching other missionaries the Spanish language.
"Some patients are shocked when they learn I speak Spanish," said Weaver.
He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and his medical degree from Michigan State.
Weaver wanted to become a rural doctor and his residency was in obstetrics. He said his goal was to serve the needs of patients through family medicine.
"Sunnyside Community Hospital has worked hard to find providers who provide obstetric care in addition to family medicine," he said, stating the trend for most medical students is to seek a specialty.
"I wanted to be in a place where tractors are as common as cars," Weaver said, stating he and his wife have four children, and one on the way.
He said he wanted to provide his children a place to live where they could play freely.
"I probably speak more Spanish than English throughout my day," Weaver said of his six weeks at Birch Street Medical Center.
He said he begins a medical visit speaking English. He judges the reaction of a patient and if he believes they prefer he speak Spanish, he will ask them.
When asked what attracted him to the Lower Valley, Weaver said meeting Lathen and visiting the community helped him and his wife to make the decision.
"Any other place was not an option," he said.
Moran, too, was convinced of his calling to live in and work in the Lower Valley after meeting Lathen.
He jokingly said, "I lost an arm-wrestling match with Tom (Lathen)."
Becoming serious, he said he has ties to the community, including a cousin living in Grandview.
Moran married his wife while on their way to their new home just more than three weeks ago. The couple is slowly settling in and becoming acquainted with Sunnyside.
They lived in Memphis, Tenn., where Moran was serving a fellowship in obstetrics. He completed a residency in family medicine in New Mexico.
Moran was familiar with the Lower Valley through previous experience. He worked in public health studies before seeking a medical degree, and while at the University of Washington he conducted research studies in the valley.
His Spanish-speaking skills were obtained by growing up with his grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador. "They don't speak English in the household," he said.
Settling into the routine at Lincoln Avenue Family Medicine, said Moran, has been a smooth transition. He attributes the adjustment to his new surroundings to the staff at the clinic.
Moran, like Weaver, is a doctor of family medicine with a specialty in obstetric care.
Of the physicians recently recruited by Sunnyside Community Hospital, Garcia is the newest pediatrician. She will be working with Dr. Anne Nealen and Physician's Assistant Mark Gardner at Sunnyside Pediatrics.
She graduated from University Pediatric Center in Puerto Rico last December, and her native language is Spanish.
Garcia has studied in Neonatal Intensive Care and has a long list of accolades to her credit, including graduating magna cum laude at Universidad de Puerto Rico in 2000.
She will join Sunnyside Pediatrics this coming November.
Lathen said he is pleased with the addition of the new providers Sunnyside Community Hospital has been able to recruit. The hospital still has two positions open for which candidates are being interviewed. With the departure of Dr. Albert Fiedler and an opening at Grandview Medical Center, Lathen believes the hospital will continue its success in providing patients physicians suited to meet the needs of the community.
"We have always looked for providers who are culturally sensitive," he said, adding, "The addition of doctors Moran, Weaver and Garcia adds considerable depth to our commitment to serving every member of the community."