Bilingual Medical Spanish Distinction Track

The Bilingual Medical Spanish Distinction Track (BMS) is a longitudinal program designed to enhance the medical Spanish communication skills of medical students entering with intermediate to advanced proficiency level.  Instructional activities throughout the four years of medical school training emphasize the development of:

  • Oral/Aural Proficiency in Medical Spanish,
  • Cultural Competence, and
  • Core Medical Competencies.

The main goal of the program is to graduate cohorts of physicians who are competent to work as bilingual Spanish-English healthcare providers. Students enrolled in this track will be better prepared to serve the healthcare needs of Limited English Proficiency, Spanish-speaking patients, and perhaps have an advantage in applying to residency programs located in communities with a growing Spanish-speaking population.


First-year medical students interested in joining the BMS will need to complete a computerized Spanish proficiency exam (COPI) in the fall semester (Year 01), and reach an ACTFL1 – Intermediate-High or above level of proficiency to be accepted in the program. The BMS is not currently available for 2nd - 4th year medical students or students from other health professions.

When should I apply?

The Bilingual Medical Spanish Distinction Track will be available to first-year medical students beginning in the fall semester. Interested students must complete a BMS online application before 8/25/2017, and schedule an initial interview with the Program Coordinator.

Instructional Activities

Medical students accepted in the BMS are required to complete a variety of instructional activities on each of the four years of medical school training. Students who complete all these activities satisfactorily and reach an 80% score or above in the Clinician Cultural and Linguistic Assessment - Spanish exam (CCLA-S) developed by ALTA Language Services, Inc. will be awarded the COM-Tucson Bilingual Spanish Healthcare Provider Certification.

Year Required Instructional Activities Description


Complete Y01 Clinical Medical Spanish coursework Fall 2.5 hrs/week; Spring 1 hr/week
  Complete 1 Standardized Patient Interview in the Spring semester H&P with standardized patients in Spanish and supervised by instructor
  Attend 1-2 Spanish for All sessions or alternative Spanish-speaking events Informal monthly conversation during lunch hour; offered in collaboration with LMSA
  Complete “Using CLAS Standards & Cultural Competence to Mitigate Health Disparities” Online course offered by COM Office of Continuing Education -

Summer between
Year 1-2

Complete Clinical Spanish Immersion (4 weeks) / Alternative: 100 hrs of clinical shadowing Can be completed concurrently with Global Health or Rural Health DT / Alternative: BUMC SC rotations with Spanish-speaking residents


Complete Y02 Clinical Medical Spanish coursework Fall semester 1 hr/week
  Complete 2 Standardized Patient Interviews in the Fall semester H&P with simulated patient in Spanish and supervised by instructor
  Finish completing Clinical Shadowing Rotations in BUMC SC Fall/Spring semester
  Take ALTA's Clinician Cultural & Linguistic Asesssment - Spanish exam Bilingual Spanish Clinician Certification exam


Attend Individual Tutoring Session (2-4 hrs per semester) Face-to-face or skype appointments; available for those who did not pass the ALTA exam


Complete Elective with Spanish-Speaking Preceptor (4 weeks)


Complete Medical Spanish Capstone Elective (MED-800D)


Retake ALTA's Clinician Cultural & Linguistic Assessment - Spanish exam

Can be completed concurrently with Global Health or Rural Health Distinction Tracks


8-10 page reflection paper (4 credit units corresponding to 4-week block)


Only those not passing the exam in the first attempt

Note: This distinction track is only open to students in the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

1ACTFL: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines 2012.


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