Ever since he made his first trip to Puerto Rico in high school, Dr. Robby Mueller has been hooked on Hispanic cultures.
Following his inaugural trip abroad, the Concordia University Wisconsin Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Portuguese Studies and has paid multiple overseas visits to Spanish-speaking countries, both as a student and a medical professional.
Today, Mueller is leveraging his expertise and life experiences in order to train others to provide more culturally and linguistically appropriate pharmaceutical care to Hispanic populations in the United States. Thanks to a $20,000 grant received from CVS Pharmacy, Mueller has started hosting annual training seminars in medical Spanish to CVS pharmacy interns who serve within Hispanic-dominant markets. The grant will cover seminars for the next five years.
Last week, Mueller held his first training sessions via a live video-conference at the CVS office in Bensenville, Illinois. Over 30 interns from across the nation tuned in for the three-hour trainings.
The goal of the CVS-sponsored training program is to enhance the skills of Spanish-speaking pharmacy students to better serve the Hispanic patient population. Each of the participants will already be competent or fluent in Spanish, says Mueller. In fact, 12 of last week’s participants were native Spanish-speakers.
“I’m not just teaching them terminology. It extends beyond that,” says Mueller. “It’s about integrating their Spanish language knowledge with their pharmacy practice skills specifically in the cultural context of a Spanish-speaking patient.”
As an example of the differences that exists between American medical terminology and the Hispanic culture, Mueller shares that in some Latin American countries, medication refills do not exist. Pharmacists, therefore, must be able to go beyond mastering Spanish phrases in order to provide optimal care.
Mueller continues to seek out ways to broaden his global perspective, and this week, he’s leading an effort to do the same for some of his students. A group of 11 students and Mueller will leave on Thursday for a two-week elective study abroad experience in Spain. The elective course is titled, “The Spanish World of Pharmacy.”
Mueller says his initial fascination with Hispanic cultures has turned into a deeper desire to better serve others, and with America having the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, Mueller notes it hasn’t been difficult to find people to serve at home.
“Now I just really see the value of being able to speak Spanish fluently and having these multiple study abroad experiences under my belt,” says Mueller. “If pharmacists are supposed to take care of the patients we serve—and pretty much anywhere you go now you’re bound to serve a Spanish-speaking patient—what more foundational thing can you do for them than try to speak their language?”