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Global Health Education Spanish for Medical Professionals Elective

Spanish for Medical Professionals is an elective for Drexel medical students only.

Offered since 2016, Spanish for Medical Professionals is an elective designed for students with an intermediate-low level of Spanish. There is an extensive focus on medical vocabulary, linguistics and culture necessary to help students provide medical care to their Spanish-speaking patients more effectively. Students will review grammatical structures needed to interact with patients such as asking questions, giving commands and reporting in present and past tense.

The course is taught by Carlos Gonzalez-Ferrin. He has a bachelor of science in pharmacy and a master's degree in Hispanic studies. Mr. Gonzalez-Ferrin has been a Spanish language instructor at several universities since 2007, including Drexel, Temple and St. Joseph's University.

This is a pass/fail elective, based on assessments throughout the course. It will only appear on your transcript as an elective if you pass.

Each class will be a combination of formal preparation focused on the structures and key vocabulary necessary for “hands-on” oral practice set around the realistic dialogues that model typical conversations in doctor-patient relations. There will be a strong focus on developing oral and listening skills, since these conversations require both to be equally strong. Reading will also be part of the class to improve students' pronunciation and strengthen the recognition and memorization of the vocabulary within the covered topic. In regards to writing, the stress will be only on dictation, which is the ability to take notes while the Spanish-speaking patient talks.

Sign-up Process and Deadline

Please sign up, only once, before 8 a.m. on September 5, 2023. The sign-up form will be available soon.

Please only enroll if you are at an intermediate-low level of Spanish.

In early September, we will review applications and invite eligible students to register for the course. Entry will be by lottery if we have more eligible students than space allows.


There is a $100 fee for the course due at the time of registration. There will be absolutely no full or partial refunds for any reason once you have registered.

Student participants in Drexel's Medical Spanish elective
Monday night Medical Spanish elective, spring 2021

Spanish Intermediate-Low Level

You should consider your level of Spanish as intermediate-low if you attended three quarters of Spanish at Drexel University, two semesters of Spanish at another undergraduate institution, or two years of high school Spanish. This is what students at an intermediate-low level are able to do:


At the intermediate-low sublevel, listeners are able to understand some information from sentence-length speech, one word at a time, in basic personal and social contexts, though comprehension is often uneven.


At the intermediate-low sublevel, readers are able to understand some information from the simplest connected texts dealing with a limited number of personal and social needs, although there may be frequent misunderstandings. Readers at this level will be challenged to derive meaning from connected texts of any length.


Speakers at the intermediate-low sublevel are able to successfully handle a limited number of uncomplicated communicative tasks by using the language in straightforward social situations. Conversation is restricted to some of the concrete exchanges and predictable topics necessary for survival in the target language culture. These topics relate to basic personal information, for example, self and family, some daily activities and personal preferences, and some immediate needs, such as ordering food and making simple purchases. At the intermediate-low sublevel, speakers are primarily reactive and struggle to answer direct questions or requests for information. They are also able to ask a few appropriate questions. Although they are not fluent in all areas, they are familiar with grammatical topics such as present tense and past tense, interrogative words, numbers, the verb gustar, the difference in use between ser and estar, and making commands.


During this course the focus will be exclusively on transcribing from dictation. Writers at the intermediate-low sublevel are able to meet some limited practical writing needs. They can create statements and formulate questions based on familiar material. Most sentences are rearrangements of learned vocabulary and structures. These are short and simple conversational-style sentences with basic word order. They are written almost exclusively in present time. Writing tends to consist of a few simple sentences, often with repetitive structure. Topics are tied to highly predictable content areas and personal information. Vocabulary is adequate to express elementary needs. There may be basic errors in grammar, word choice, punctuation, spelling, and in the formation and use of non-alphabetic symbols. Their writing is understood by natives used to the writing of non-natives, although additional effort may be required. When intermediate-low writers attempt to perform writing tasks at the advanced level, their writing will deteriorate significantly and their message may not come across.

Medical Spanish Goals and Objectives

  • To acquire the Spanish vocabulary that relates specifically to the medical field
  • To review grammatical structures to properly interact with Spanish-speaking patients in order to provide the help they may need
  • To improve the pronunciation and listening comprehension to prevent misunderstandings due to lack of accuracy
  • To gain an understanding of Hispanic cultural backgrounds
  • To become more sympathetic to the individuals who lack proficiency in English and to identify how this may affect the level of care they receive

Medical Spanish Elective Schedule

Scheduling elective classes near exams was unavoidable in certain situations. Please be mindful of this, and plan to study for exams in advance.

2023 session dates will be available soon.

After the Elective: Furthering Your Spanish

There are several ways to continue your study of medical Spanish after you complete the elective:

  • If you are seeking Spanish-speaking community programs for your Health Advocacy Longitudinal Practicum (HALP), please consider selecting sites at St. Christopher’s Hospital and Puentas de Salud.
  • There is a student group, Mesa de Español, that allows continued practice and other activities for the duration of your time in the MD program. All students are encouraged to participate.
  • Some global health experiences available in the summer after your first year or as a fourth-year elective take place in Spanish-speaking countries. Visit our student experiences page to learn more about these and other global health opportunities.

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