Leading Latinas Through Language

Katey Steinberg believes that language has the ability to empower us.

The senior biology and Spanish double major has used her education from Temple to create a positive force in Philadelphia’s Latino community. Through her work with Temple’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and Temple University Hospital, Steinberg has been able to utilize the Spanish language to better understand the health issues being faced by local Latinos. She has since dedicated herself to improving the health of Latinos.

Steinberg’s affiliation with Temple’s Science Scholars Program led to her involvement with DPP.

“It just worked out perfectly,” she said.

DPP recruits Latina patients in Philadelphia medical clinics to participate in pre-diabetic screenings. Steinberg said the women are told about the risks and then asked if they desire to partake in the study.

The participants are placed into three different groups. Steinberg’s focus was the lifestyle intervention group. In this group, the women are closely monitored in their diet and exercise routines. Through the study, Steinberg found that lifestyle intervention was a more successful option compared to the use of medical drugs to prevent diabetes.

Steinberg also used her time working on bilingual floors at Temple University Hospital to understand the cultural barriers facing Latinos. By talking to the patients about their experiences in Spanish, she witnessed firsthand the difficulties that both the patients and their non-Spanish speaking health providers had communicating with one another.

“I came to college knowing I wanted to do pre-med, but never knew I would go in this direction,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg’s early hands-on experiences in her field didn’t cease at Temple University Hospital.

In May 2014, Steinberg went to work in a medical clinic in Lima, Peru. While there, she learned that language dialect reflects the culture of a country. Steinberg noted that the culture of Peru, for example, was “very polite.”

“Peruvians tend to speak with the proper form of the pronoun ‘you,’” Steinberg said. “It is just a small detail in the cultural and linguistic variety that exists throughout Latin America. No two cultures are the same just because they have the same language.”

Assistant Professor of Temple’s Spanish and Portuguese Department Patricia Moore-Martinez introduced Steinberg to a variety of Latino community organizations upon her return to Philadelphia. Moore-Martinez has visitors from some of these non-profit organizations.

In addition to her other ventures, Steinberg has also volunteered at Puentes de Salud Clinic, a non profit organization that provides medical services to the Latino community in South Philadelphia.

“One of the many goals is to understand people, not abstract concepts,” Moore-Martinez said. “When important decisions are being made, we must be conscious that they are affecting individual human beings.”

While language may be a barrier for some, Steinberg believes it remains a solid device for helping others and being able to view the world through a new set of eyes. She feels the results of her work almost every day and prepares to use what she has learned to attend medical school.

“Spanish made me who I am,” Steinberg said. “It has led the way to new experiences as well as new perspectives.”

Written by Amanda M. Figueroa Diaz

Photographed by Jademan Baker

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