Ronald Belford, Interpreter, Rewriting Healthcare

Rewriting healthcare means making people feel right at home.

Rewriting Healthcare by Ronald Belford, BMC interpreter

As an immigrant from Haiti, Boston Medical Center (BMC) interpreter Ronald Belford is acutely aware of the struggles many of his patients face when seeking care in a new country and in a foreign language. Making them feel as comfortable as possible is a labor of love for Ronald.

“Working as an interpreter in French and Haitian Creole has allowed me to serve in a way I didn’t get to back home,” he explains. “And it goes straight to my heart to be able to help somebody who is in need. Not only do our patients have challenges with language and culture, but many also have very limited resources and had to travel here to escape violence back home.”

Read on to learn how Ronald and his Interpreter Services colleagues provide a crucial component of BMC’s mission to deliver culturally appropriate, holistic care to patients. 

What’s unique about working at BMC? 

At BMC, it’s not only me who is an immigrant, but there are a lot of other immigrants. Working here feels like the United Nations because we have people who come from everywhere. 

Rob Belford speaks with patient
BMC interpreters Pierre Sterling (left) and Ronald Belford (right) discuss spices on BMC’s Rooftop Farm

We offer interpreter services 24 hours a day. We have about 60 professional interpreters on staff who are available for face-to-face interpretation in about 16 languages, and we also have many more languages available by phone. But it’s not only language — we also understand our patients’ cultures. We want our patients to feel comfortable. BMC takes a holistic approach to caring for patients and makes services accessible to our whole population.

When patients come to BMC, they will have an interpreter who speaks their same language and who most likely comes from their same country. They will also understand the culture and know the taboos of that culture. But the interpreter will also understand American culture and know the medical terminology and be able to tell the provider their patients’ needs. 

People come here and they say, “This person understands me, this place understands me. They are speaking my language, and they understand what I need.”

One of the best things about BMC is that we’re all passionate about what we’re doing. We love what we’re doing. I’ve been at BMC for more than 20 years, and I love the friendships I’ve developed over the years. I love my patients. I love the providers. I love our mission.

How is BMC pushing the boundaries in delivering patient care and services? 

Here at BMC, we provide all sorts of services — we are providing so much more than healthcare or interpretation services. I would say it’s much more like providing a sort of holistic approach, providing everything people in the community need, such as help with food and legal resources. BMC is really sticking to its mission in that way. 

For example, we have done a lot of work with the Teaching Kitchen and Rooftop Farm. And recently, we’ve had an influx of patients coming from different countries who have had some difficulties with their diet and with food, including maternity patients and children, and some of those patients are Haitian. Haitians are very particular about our food and how we eat our food. It usually takes a long time to cook, but many of the refugees in shelters here don’t have facilities to cook. So, we came up with the idea of blending multiple spices from the Rooftop Garden to make a spice that would taste like what’s found in Haitian food. Patients can add it to their food so it tastes like a food that they know and provides comfort, the way chicken soup might for people in this country. It was an exceptionally brilliant idea and one way to help the community.

Wide view of BMC's Rooftop Garden
Pierre and Ronald tour BMC’s Rooftop Farm

What is BMC to you?

BMC is the place where I serve my community. And BMC is part of me. BMC is the place to be. And I’m very, very fortunate to be able to work here.

BMC’s mission is what I have always wanted to do with my life — helping the underserved. And it’s helping me grow personally every day with the encounters I have. BMC is not static; it’s always growing and changing and getting better. 

How is BMC rewriting healthcare?

Rewriting healthcare means making people feel right at home. BMC offered that to me and offers that to our patients. 

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