Saying Thank you is the universal language of food


Imagine how delighted, and grateful, the staff of the Akron Children’s Hospital Emergency Room was late one Thursday afternoon last spring when the gift of five huge pizzas, and beverages, was delivered from Upper Crust in Highland Square?

Dr. Parizad Dejbord-SawanThe surprise was from our own Dr. Parizad Dejbord-Sawan, an associate professor who teaches Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages.

“It gives the pizza place some extra business and is a thank you to these health care professionals on the frontline to acknowledge the difficult work they are doing,” says Dejbord-Sawan. “Sort of a win-win.”

She’s one of several individuals who are part of a Facebook group initiative to send meals to area health professionals. The initiative is led by Heather Pollock, a visiting assistant professor of instruction in our Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies. Dr. Kathryn Feltey, an associate professor in our Department of Sociology, is also a member.

Dejbord-Sawan has a special connection to the medical professionals working at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Since the fall of 2015, she has been teaching the 9-credit, three-semester Certificate of Beginning Medical Spanish program on-site at Children’s. Medical personnel from Summa Health System and private practices have joined in classes as well.

“I developed the certificate for local medical professionals and supporting medical staff with no prior knowledge of the Spanish language or appropriate cultural training, who need to interact daily with Hispanic patients of limited English proficiency,” explains Dejbord-Sawan. In addition to teaching the classes, she recruits the students and facilitates their applications to admission as non-degree seekers at UA.  

“It has been very rewarding as current medical professionals and alumni regularly share stories about how it has changed their practice and has allowed them to establish quality relationships with their Hispanic patients,” adds Dejbord-Sawan, who says that by the end of this year’s cycle, 55 will have graduated from the program.

With the current coronavirus pandemic, Akron Children’s Hospital has had to cancel all of its on-site education classes, but Dejbord-Sawan and her students are undaunted.

“I am working with them to figure out how they can share technology so all can attend live, virtual classes,” says Dejbord-Sawan. “We are changing our meeting time so that it is later in the evening and they can get home in time to connect.”