Sam Parker remembers it well. Parker, a professor in UNCG’s deaf interpreter preparation program, got a call that a deaf person was in the hospital and needed an interpreter. He rushed to the hospital with little or no information.

When Parker entered the hospital room, everyone was wearing protective suits. Everyone but him. The patient had TB.

“Often interpreters are on the frontline,” he says. “We may see the patient before the doctors, before the nurses. We’re meeting them in the lobby of the ER.”

Misunderstandings, miscommunications and the current panic over Ebola prompted Parker to call Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC). His question: How can we work together to better disseminate information about Ebola and other more prevalent diseases to deaf interpreters and the deaf community?

Parker and Jeff Beaman, director of infection prevention at WFBMC, organized a three-hour workshop to inform medical interpreters about Ebola and other infectious diseases. The workshop, Medical Interpreting in the Time of Ebola, takes place Saturday, Dec. 6, in the UNCG School of Education Building.

Parker worries that panic over Ebola will cause medical interpreters to stay clear of hospitals. More likely threats are TB, flu, measles and whooping cough.

“How much fear and misinformation is out there that we can try to alleviate?” Parker asks.

Beaman will discuss how diseases like Ebola and flu are transmitted, how to prevent infection, and effective use of protective gear. He says the odds of a U.S. hospital receiving an Ebola patient are very low, especially when compared to the prevalence of other potentially deadly infections like flu, TB and whooping cough.

But, Beaman adds, hospitals still have to be ready for Ebola. “In this time of Ebola, we have to be as prepared as we can be.”

Parker and Beaman also plan to talk about self-advocacy for interpreters. Interpreters need to know where to get protective gear, and how and when to use it, Parker says — points that sometimes get brushed aside in a medical emergency.

Interpreting for deaf patients can be further complicated by cultural norms. Deaf interpreters have to learn how to mitigate risk without offending the patient.

“It’s customary to hug and to touch, and when you go into the ER you are going to hug and touch patients,” Parker says. “If you don’t hug or touch that will be perceived as rudeness.”

To register for Medical Interpreting in the Time of Ebola, visit

For the latest information on Ebola and other infectious diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control at


 Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations