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Dr. Cesar Yepes, a noninvasive and interventional cardiologist, is well-respected and widely known throughout the medical community. What makes this particular cardiologist stand out, however, is his ability to not just speak a different language, but three different ones: English, Spanish, and French. This undoubtedly has set him apart in his field, and expands opportunities for him to practice medicine.
Given the growing number of people with limited English speaking skills immigrating to the United States, the language barrier between physicians and patients has also grown. One method of dealing with this language disparity has been to introduce a translator to work between the patient and doctor. This has led to miscommunications, as well as patients not fully understanding a specific diagnosis or why they were given a certain medicine for treatment.
Dr. Yepes attributes much of his success to his ability to speak three different languages, noting that it allows him to be more effective and efficient with his patients.
“Learning and mastering three languages has allowed me to get a better perspective in my career. It allows me to specialize in internal medicine, general cardiology, interventional cardiology, and noninvasive cardiology in premier centers of excellence in North America,” he explains. “It opened my mind to new worldwide ideas, and not only ideas coming from one country or one culture. It allows me to know very brilliant people from other cultures, especially in a multicultural city like New York, Montreal, or Boston.”
Dr. Yepes is just one example of why learning one or more languages is important for any career. Studies have proven that young people who decide to study a language and become fluent are going to be smarter, build multitasking skills, and improve memory. For monolingual adults, the average age for initial signs of dementia is 71. Adults who speak more than one language, the average age is 75. Although different factors such as education level, income, gender, and physical health were introduced as well in this specific study, the results remained consistent. People who also speak more than one language are able to make better decisions and become more perceptive.
“Learning additional languages was an investment in time and money that was amazingly profitable personally and financially, particularly the satisfaction of being able to communicate with people from other languages and being able to learn the science of medicine coming from the most advanced countries in the world,” says Dr. Yepes.
As he further explains, the challenge of learning additional languages was considerable. “I had to translate the knowledge in medicine from Spanish to English and then to French, then back to English again when I came back to the U.S., and now to Spanish with the advantage of having four specialties,” he says.
In an effort to better serve patients with limited English speaking skills, Dr. Yepes offers a number of tips for professionals not only in his field, but across the board when it comes to the importance of learning languages.
“My top tip for professionals is to first learn a profession in your own language as deeply as you can. When it comes to learning other languages, you must be prepared to invest considerable time and effort, as well as be well-motivated about what you want to be. Do not give up easily and have a lot of faith. Get into a learning center, and give yourself to the whole program. Do your best. Lose the shame of speaking with an accent. Open your mind. Be humble about it. And get all the benefits that today’s technology can give you.”