First awarded in 2017, the Culturally Responsive Health Care Award was established by University of Iowa Health Care to recognize individuals and groups who practice inclusive care with conscious attention to health inequities and the need for care adaptive to diverse needs of patients and their families.
This year, the award has been given to seven members of our Medical Intensive Care Unit for the outstanding care they provided Spanish-speaking people with COVID-19 and their families. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, MICU providers were faced with a new and uncertain set of circumstances. But an additional challenge came, as E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, put it in his nominating letter, when the virus hit towns heavily reliant on immigrant workers for meatpacking plants. “Iowa’s first full-blown outbreaks hit Spanish-speaking Iowans hardest and fastest,” Abel wrote.
Many of the sickest of them came to University of Iowa Health Care for treatment. Even under the best of circumstances, the level of care required for treatment in an intensive care unit is frightening both to the patient and their families. For individuals who have only limited English or even none at all, this fear is compounded. But it was in this moment, as our ICU beds filled, that our pulmonary physicians, many native Spanish-speakers, saw a way to ease some of that fear.
The providers folded in translation duties in addition to already-heavy clinical responsibilities. Not only did they keep patients better informed, but “they reached out to families, providing explanations and updates on how their care was progressing, dispelling misunderstandings, and answering all questions with fluidity and nuance not always possible from some translation services.”
In a Grand Rounds late last summer on the patient experience with COVID-19, one of those patients described the relief he experienced at hearing details about his care in Spanish. His wife cited it as critical to her ability to maintain hope after her husband was intubated.
“Not only did stories like this,” Abel continued, “provide Latinx patients, their families, and their communities with hope, just when things looked their most worrisome and even their most unfair, but it also spoke to the example we always strive to set at this institution. We believe not only in equality, but in erasing inequities.”
Congratulations to this year’s well-deserving winners with our thanks for your example!
Alejandro Comellas, MD
Claudia Corwin, MD, MPH (A pulmonary physician who, although not in the MICU, has provided tremendous outreach in COVID-19 prevention and care to migrant farm workers in Iowa through her efforts with Proteus.)
Tahuanty Pena, MD
Alejandro Pezzulo Colmenares, MD
Rolando Sanchez, MD
Raul Villacreses Rada, MD
Joseph Zabner, MD, PhD
The team was formally presented with their award at today’s Grand Rounds. Nicole Nisly, MD, Vice Chair for Diversity, introduced the team and described the award. She then introduced Abel, who spoke briefly about the example these providers have set for inclusivity and compassion in their care.
Our thanks also to The Loop for their coverage of this award.