Tam Le ’15, a graduate of the healthcare management program at Elms, has a dynamic career as a medical interpreter and scheduler. She sees her work with language as a way to give back to the local Vietnamese community.
Going to the hospital is stressful enough, but for people who don’t speak English, an American hospital can be truly terrifying. Fortunately, in those moments, dedicated people like Tam Le ’15 come to the rescue.
“As a medical interpreter, you are the voice of the provider and patient,” she said. “It’s really important to convey everything correctly, and to make sure that nothing is lost.”
After graduating from the healthcare management program in 2015, Tam started working as a medical interpreter at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the local Vietnamese population, often answering phone calls in the middle of the night requesting her presence in the emergency room or to address other urgent situations.
Tam’s line of work is impressive, considering that she spoke no English when she emigrated from Vietnam with her family in 2009. She credits her time at Elms for offering her the chance to improve her fluency through ESL classes, as well as connect with students of different backgrounds through International Club and the University of Kochi exchange program.
From Interpreter to Administrator
After spending a year as a medical interpreter, Tam decided to find a job that more closely aligned with her degree. The extra time she spent supporting the hospital’s interpreter and translation services department paid off in 2016, when she became its newest scheduler of services.
“At work people call me a ninja, because of how quickly I answer the phones,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do it at first, but once you get started, you learn how things work and you invent your own way of doing things.”
Tam’s department provides services for patients in up to 70 languages each year, which means she has her work cut out for her. As a healthcare administrator, she is responsible for coordinating language services for the Deaf and patients who don’t speak English or Spanish fluently. When you factor in the sheer size of the Baystate healthcare system, this is quite the feat: The consortium consists of four hospitals and more than 80 medical practices, and serves 1.8 million patients every year.
“Baystate is lucky to be able to hire such a smart and dedicated employee like Tam, who takes her role to ensure clear communication among patients and providers so seriously,” said Tim Moriarty, manager of interpreter and translation services at Baystate.
“This is exactly what I want to do — administration and management together,” Tam said. “It’s a challenging job, but I enjoy it every day.”
Citing the manta that “communication is key,” Tam credits her time in the healthcare management program with teaching her how to excel in high-pressure situations.
“Now that I’m a scheduler, I essentially negotiate between interpreter and provider. You need to decide what works for each party,” she said.
“You just have to analyze each situation and make a decision,” she added. “It’s very cost effective to do it this way. It all ties back to business strategy.”
While the majority of her time is spent communicating with and directing 50 staff interpreters, Tam still makes time to work directly with patients, too. Partnering with TransFluenci, a local agency in East Longmeadow, MA, she goes above and beyond her 9-to-5 schedule to support the local Vietnamese community at other health care facilities.
“I still work with them, after hours and on weekends,” she said. “But this is something I do because I enjoy it. It’s not about the money. I really like helping out in my community here.”
Healthcare management majors at Elms develop a versatile skill set that prepares them for a variety of jobs in healthcare settings. If you share Tam’s passion for helping others, contact us or schedule a campus visit to learn more.