MPT Student Lynda Li Received UBC StEAR Funding

Name and Title(s):  

Lynda Li – MPT Student

Congratulations to MPT Student Lynda Li for receiving a UBC Strategic Equity & Anti-Racism (StEAR) Enhancement Fund for their organization Volentia Research Translation. Volentia equips UBC-affiliated research investigators and graduate students with free language translation services to enhance the diversity of research populations.

I was inspired to create Volentia Healthcare Translation by my mother, whose background as a gastroenterologist in China enabled her to provide medical translation help to many of our friends and neighbours experiencing language barriers in healthcare. Growing up in a community of immigrants, I was immersed in an environment where residents shared similar concerns regarding the linguistic, cultural, and financial barriers to obtaining good healthcare.

Many felt as if they were being overlooked by the healthcare system and that they were seeping through the cracks. The recognition of these disparities in healthcare access and outcomes served as a catalyst fuelling my determination to pursue a healthcare career.

During my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology, I learned that health inequities often arise from the failure to recognize that health is not only biomedical, it’s also very social. Health is shaped by a myriad of interlocking sociocultural factors such as ethnicity, culture, education, and socioeconomic status. I recognized that without good and effective communication, these social factors risk being left invisible to healthcare providers.

It was during my undergraduate degree that I crossed paths with Riya Virdi, who later became a good friend. Sharing similar backgrounds, values, and ambitions to enhance health equity in BC, we built Volentia Healthcare Translation, an organization providing free healthcare translation and interpretation services for immigrants, newcomers, and those with low English language proficiency.

At Volentia, we believe that the ability to communicate, understand, and be understood in one’s language is a fundamental right. Despite Canada’s tremendous diversity, language barriers remain a common experience, particularly in healthcare. By providing free language services, our goal is to increase the accessibility of culturally safe healthcare and improve the health of underserved, minority, and marginalized communities in BC.

During my last year of undergrad, I worked as an RA in the UBC Gender, Aging, and Health Lab led by Dr. Laura Hurd. As a co-author in a study on the aging experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults, my responsibilities included performing qualitative analyses of over 30 interview transcripts. During my time as an RA, I was also involved in my work at Volentia. Having my foot in both research and translation services landed to a natural curiosity about what accommodations exist for those with low English-language proficiency in research.

After some investigation, I found out that only 1/3 of studies submitted to the Canadian Research Ethics Board provide accommodations for participants with low English-language proficiency. This finding prompted a discussion of how Volentia’s language services could be integrated into research and paved the way for our subsequent expansion into academia.

Over the past year, we have been equipping research investigators at UBC and the B.C Children’s Hospital Research Institute with free language translators and interpreters in hopes of promoting greater ethnocultural diversity in the research conducted in BC.

Diverse ethnocultural research samples are essential for conducting research that is both meaningful and applicable across various ethnicities, cultures, and social backgrounds. Despite extensive evidence supporting the importance of diverse research representation, a predominant majority of research participants remain White, university-educated, and middle-class. This creates a notable barrier to achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion in both research endeavours and their real-world applications.

Among those least likely to be represented in research are individuals with low English-language proficiency. Through our provision of free language services in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research, our goal is to increase the participation of low English-language proficiency groups in research to ultimately enhance the generalizability of research outcomes to minority and marginalized populations.

Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of my work at Volentia is being able to advocate for language justice, which is an individual’s fundamental language right, to be able to communicate, understand, and be understood in the language they feel most articulate and powerful. It is incredibly fulfilling to use language translation as a tool for empowerment by amplifying historically underrepresented voices in academia.

The focus on language translation as a means of diversifying research samples not only contributes to more inclusive and culturally sensitive research practices but also addresses the historical inequities that hindered minority and marginalized groups from engaging in Western research.

Growing Volentia has been a truly rewarding experience. Since our inception, we’ve grown our team to over 100 volunteers providing language services in over 14 languages. In 2023, we have facilitated translation in over 60 healthcare appointments. While it’s only been three months into 2024, we’ve exceeded our projected quarterly demand, fulfilling nearly 40 healthcare appointments.

In response to the persistent language barriers faced by low English-language proficiency groups across Canada, we established a new branch at the University of Alberta in July 2023. The Alberta expansion is poised to address the shortage of free healthcare-related translation resources and enhance the accessibility of Volentia’s language services for low English-language proficiency ethnic minority groups.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many peers who have inspired me to be more adventurous when trying out new activities. Whether it’s overcoming my fear of heights through bouldering or learning about breathwork in yoga and pilates – I have been really enjoying exploring new movement patterns.

Being active has tremendously helped to foster greater physical well-being and mental resilience.

One aspect that I cherish most about my time in the program is the invaluable connections and friendships I’ve formed. The collaborative nature of the MPT program has created a supportive environment where we learn from one another and help each other navigate our academic journeys.

I am genuinely grateful for the collaborative spirit in the MPT community, making learning not just a solitary endeavour but a shared journey.