Clear communication between patients and health care practitioners is critical to effective treatment. However, important information is often lost in translation among the fast-growing Hispanic population. While working as a pharmacy technician during her freshman year at UH, Grace Hwang saw firsthand the challenges of treating Spanish-speaking patients.

“It was very hard because we had to guess what they were saying or call the interpreter on the phone,” she recalls. “We couldn’t provide the same level of care because of the language barrier.”

Texas is home to more than 11 million Hispanics, on pace to become the largest population group in the state by 2022. According to the Pew Research Center, 32 percent have limited or no English proficiency.

In collaboration with the department of Hispanic Studies, the College of Pharmacy offers a Certificate in Hispanic Health Care—the first program of its kind in the nation. The 18-hour program provides students with advanced skills and knowledge to deliver culturally and linguistically competent pharmacy care services to Hispanic and Spanish-speaking populations.

“The program includes extensive experiential learning, fieldwork and public service opportunities in Hispanic communities that enhance cultural sensitivity leading to better quality care,” said Andrea Smesny, executive associate dean at the College of Pharmacy.

Hwang recently graduated from UH and is now working as a pharmacist at a Houston hospital. Completing the certificate program was essential to her success, she said, and ultimately the success and health of her patients.

“It opened my eyes to the needs of other cultures and how to communicate effectively.”