May 28, 2020

MS in Translation Graduate Daniela Obregon on Medical Interpreting and Translation in the Time of COVID

Daniela Obregon moved to the United States from Argentina at the age of 20 with the goal of pursuing an education in translation and interpreting. She found the NYU MS in Translation (MST) while exploring online graduate programs and completed it part-time while employed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. In the interview below, Daniela reflects on her work to further pediatric palliative care, the influence of graduate study on her professional life, and her experience as a medical translator and interpreter in the time of COVID. 

Q: What led you to apply to the MST program? What interpreting experience did you have prior to beginning your MST coursework, and what were your career goals?

A: I had been interpreting since 2014 but knew I wanted to specialize in translation. I moved to California after graduating with my BA in English, so it was very important for me to find a graduate program in Los Angeles or online. Once I learned about the MST program at NYU, I knew it was the one to choose and I liked that NYU is a globally-recognized university.

A month after I started the program at NYU, I got hired to work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) as a Language and Cultural Specialist in Spanish. 

Q: What have you been up to, professionally, since graduating?

A: Since graduating, I have continued working at CHLA. I also do freelance medical and legal translations to maintain the skills I gained at NYU.

Back in January, Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) and My Cielo organizations invited me to New York City to teach at a workshop for interpreters of indigenous languages. I volunteer with this organization every year to help break the cultural and language barrier between communities- especially indigenous communities.

I have also presented at the Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling Graduate Program at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) in Claremont, CA about Latino cultural awareness.

Q: You gave a presentation at the ATA on self-care and team support for interpreters working in pediatric palliative care. Can you give us an overview of the presentation? How did you come to present on this topic, and what was your experience at the conference?

A: Back in October, I gave a presentation at the ATA conference about interpreting for palliative care in pediatrics. The presentation was mainly about the complexity of the topics seen in palliative care encounters, such as dealing with our own emotions while giving parents and families tragic news. 

The conference itself was fantastic. I was able to network with other colleagues and also to spend some time at the NYU booth.

Q: What has your experience been in the current COVID crisis? What role do interpreters play in navigating this crisis? 

A: The current COVID-19 crisis has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Fortunately, the pediatric population is not very vulnerable to COVID-19 and I have not been part of many cases.

When we receive patients with COVID-19, the hospital has made the decision to protect their staff, so interpreters are not interpreting in person to preserve PPE and our health. In those cases, we help families over the phone.

Q: How has your coursework in the MST influenced you professionally? Is there anything you would like to share about your experience in the program?

A: The MST program was challenging and time-consuming but very rewarding. I enjoyed every class in the program and was able to focus on learning skills that helped me become a better translator and professional. The program is accessible to working students. I decided to work full-time and study part-time and it was difficult, but doable. 

I will be forever grateful to have had incredible professors like Ana Krause, Ana Lis Salotti, Michael Crooks, and Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, who talked to me not only about my academic goals but also about the world after graduation. Knowing what to expect after finishing your degree is extremely important. I feel prepared to face the challenges to come.


Thank you to Daniela for sharing your experience as both a student and a professional translator and interpreter. 

A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s M.S. in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate degree.




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