I started volunteering at Mid-State Literacy Council because I have experienced what it is like to be on the other end of not having acquired the necessary skill to communicate effectively in a different country. The process of learning a language living in a foreign country is incredibly daunting and frustrating but is essential to gain control of your life and take advantage of opportunities around you. I heard about this opportunity in my BBH class and knew that I would be honored to be part of the students’ learning process and learn from them just as much as they would learn from me.

I currently teach students about health literacy in the ‘English for Doctor’s Visits’ class. Health literacy is a topic that I find incredibly important and often overlooked, not only in ESL but for the global population. Often, prescribers and health officials may not explain conditions or procedures in a way that ensures a patient’s comprehension. Although I believe it is the responsibility of the healthcare providers to ensure they adjust their communication methods to meet the needs of the patients, this isn’t always the case. The need for comprehension of one’s health is incredibly important, so being able to provide lessons on the resources available to the students and teaching them about their health, preventions and treatment options has been incredibly rewarding. I am learning about ways to assess my knowledge and communicate it effectively to others. I am striving to become a physician and this experience has taught me the importance of ensuring patients’ understanding and adapting to the needs of others.

In class, we practice having conversations for appointment making, patient intake, and doctor-patient interactions. We also learn about human physiology, mental health, physical health, nutrition, chronic diseases, and health insurance. The students learn about health promotion as well as how to access the American healthcare system.
The students who come to Mid-State are incredibly passionate about learning to improve their English language skills and I am grateful to have the opportunity to be part of that process.

by Sarah Almarzooqi

Sarah is a senior at Penn State studying biomechanical engineering and pre-medicine.

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