Thomas Jefferson University

Language Programs

Medical Spanish Program

One of SKMC’s missions is to eliminate the health disparities commonly seen in underserved populations.

Established in 2015, SKMC students with Spanish language skills at the advanced/proficient/conversational to the fluent level can participate in a four-year longitudinal experience designed to develop physicians who can provide care to Spanish-speaking patients and their families. The program is an important component of a comprehensive and targeted approach to eliminating health and education disparities.

In the first year, students are chosen via an interview process. Those selected take the Canopy Medical Spanish online program and receive both credits for their first-year Humanities in Medicine course. The program includes shadowing experiences at Puentes de Salud and Jefferson’s Latina Women’s Health Clinic, language practice sessions and medical simulation.

During the summer after their first year, selected students have the opportunity to participate in a four-week medical immersion program at CES University in Medellin, Colombia. Students shadow a variety of specialties in both the inpatient and outpatient setting and have the chance to witness medical care in Spanish.

During their second and third years, students continue their shadowing experiences at Puentes de Salud and the Latina Women’s Health clinic. In their fourth year, armed with three years’ worth of medical knowledge, students have the opportunity to return to CES University in Medellin, Colombia and participate in a clinical elective in the specialty of their choice.

Medical Spanish Program Overview

Students participate in this program throughout each phase of their medical education.


First Year


In the first year, students build their foundation for proficiency in Medical Spanish in the following stages.

1. Education: Using the online Canopy Medical Spanish Program, students learn terminology and cultural competency. The program is a 40-hour, three-tiered program administered over 20 weeks aimed at providing the knowledge to perform a medical history and physical examination in Spanish

2. Clinical Exposure: Students practice what they have learned by shadowing physicians as they provide medical care to Spanish-speaking patients. The two main sites:

3. Simulation

  • Weekly practice sessions with the student coordinators and fellow classmates
  • Clinical case scenarios at the Rector Simulation Center – in 2020, students managed a case of congestive heart failure and pneumonia using high-fidelity simulators with second year students running the cases

4. Immersion: Four-week inpatient and outpatient experience at the Universidad CES, Medellin, Colombia

Second Year


1. Clinical Exposure - ongoing shadowing at:

2. Simulation – participation in the first year portion of the program in:

  • Weekly practice sessions
  • Clinical case scenarios at the Rector Simulation Center

3. Education – Case-based learning (CBL) modules

Third Year


1. Clinical Exposure - ongoing shadowing at:

Fourth Year


With three-plus years of medical knowledge and clinical skills, students advance and refine their skills through:

1. Immersion: Four-week clinical clerkship in a specialty of choice the Universidad CES, Medellin, Colombia.

2. Clinical Exposure - ongoing shadowing at:

3. Advanced Medical Spanish Elective: a four-week individualized elective designed to enhance the student’s skills. The course involves the Canopy Medical Spanish course, conversational Medical Spanish sessions, cultural competency modules and advanced Spanish history and physical examination skills