Born in mainland China, Candace Luo, program coordinator and training facilitator for the qualified bilingual staff (QBS) program, moved to the Bay Area and attended high school in San Francisco. She was raised speaking Mandarin at home with her parents but is also fluent in Sichuanese spoken by her grandparents and Cantonese which she spoke with her friends and classmates.

When it came to selecting a career path, she chose to attend the health care interpreting (HCI) certificate program at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) after receiving master’s degrees in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and health administration. The joy she received from helping others as well as understanding the negative impact of language barriers laid the foundation for her future.

Luo is joined on graduation day from the health care interpreting (HCI) certificate program at City College of San Francisco by her mother and grandparents.

When Luo’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Luo was exposed to the transformative work of a professional medical interpreter assigned to her mother. “I was so impressed by how the trained medical interpreter made my mom feel respected and the connection and support we received,” she said.

She shared that it meant the world to her mother to have someone who understood her, relayed questions to providers, and explained what was happening as she went through a moment of uncertainty.

“I worried, because at the time I was often away at work or in school and I could not be there in-person. It touched my heart knowing that my mother would not be left alone, in the dark,” said Luo “and I want the same assurance for patients navigating our system during tough times.”

Language can be a major barrier to health care for many Alameda Health System (AHS) patients who do not speak English as their first language. To ensure patients receive an exceptional and safe care experience regardless of their language, culture or background, AHS has an interpreter services department with dedicated and certified interpreters who are committed to breaking down language and culture barriers.

The AHS interpreter services department has a proud legacy in serving the needs of our diverse communities and ensuring all patients are seen, heard and understood. Luo, exemplifies that legacy today by bringing her endless compassion and commitment to serving all patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

One AHS patient touched by Luo’s kindness and dedication to go above and beyond when calling Highland Hospital for the first time shared, “I am so grateful to Ms. Luo. She has been patient and enthusiastic while helping me understand how to make an appointment, which phone number to call for Chinese and when I can reach the call center. At first, I was hesitant to call and try to schedule an appointment, but Ms. Luo made it a delightful experience. She truly has passion for her work, and it shows.”

This is just one of the many expressions of gratitude patients have shared about Luo over her ten years of service at AHS, but she does not do it for the accolades. It comes from the heart. “My passion for interpreting and helping people better navigate everyday tasks began at home, living in a four-generation family speaking multiple Chinese dialects,” said Luo.

Luo’s supervisor Sambo Ly, manager for the interpreter services department shared that Luo is exceptional in her role and as a representative of AHS. “She has all the qualities I look for in job candidates including being patient-oriented, committed to investing time with AHS patients for the long term, and investing in professional growth opportunities,” said Ly.

Ly shared that Luo has expanded her role and is now administering and facilitating the Qualified Bilingual Staff (QBS) training program at AHS and working to migrate the in-person training to a virtual platform. The QBS program helps ensure that AHS meets federal regulation requirements established by Joint Commission and national Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in health care standards established by the Office of Minority Health.

Luo attributes much of her career growth to mentors like Ly and the opportunities she has been offered at AHS, including obtaining national certifications for medical interpreters and serving as EPIC Superusers for the department. She credits her personal growth and development to her mother, a single parent with minimal resources, who always supported Luo’s passion to pursue higher education. She shared that her mother never wavered in her encouragement for Luo to find and fulfill her purpose to serve as a medical interpreter in helping patients bridge their linguistic, cultural and medical gap.

“As I go into my 10th year of service, I continue to feel honored and privileged to be part of the AHS interpreter services family,” Luo said. “I am grateful that I can share my skills and help train providers and medical staff in the QBS program. Collectively we are making a difference in the health and wellness of our most vulnerable patients.”

For more information and access to a language interpreter please visit: AHS Patient Services or if you are interested in participating in the AHS QBS program visit:  AHS Qualified Bilingual Staff Program