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  • Jun 23, 2022

CHA Senior Multicultural Affairs Director Receives Tony Winsor Award for Language Access

Avlot Quessa recognized by Commonwealth Medicine/UMass Chan Medical School and MassHealth

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.Avlot Quessa, senior director of multicultural affairs, diversity and patient services at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), a community health system serving Cambridge, Somerville and Boston's metro-north communities, has been awarded the Tony Winsor Award for 2022 by Massachusetts Medical Interpreter Training, a program at Commonwealth Medicine/UMass Chan Medical School, and MassHealth. The award honors a person who has advocated for professionalizing the work of a medical interpreter to improve language access for all persons. Contributions to the field of medical interpreting may include advocating for the utilization of medical interpreters, providing education for medical interpreters, or promoting the work of medical interpreters.

As a Haitian immigrant, Mr. Quessa minored in Spanish and later pursued formal interpreter training in Spanish because there were no programs for speakers of Haitian Creole or other minority languages at the time. Starting in 1994, he worked as an interpreter at numerous Boston institutions before coming to CHA as an interpreter educator in 2001. Since then, he has helped to develop some of the first training tools for Haitian interpreters anywhere as well as cultural and linguistic education modules for healthcare providers and support staff.

Mr. Quessa is a social justice champion for linguistic minorities in Massachusetts. This award recognizes his significant and lasting contributions to the field of medical interpretation, ensuring that all patients receive health care with respect, equality and dignity, with language access for all.

In 2021, CHA provided 560,000 interpreter assisted encounters in 120 different languages using 3 different modalities: in-person, remote video, and telephonic.

Mass AHEC Network established the award for medical interpreters in Tony Winsor's name in 2015. Tony Winsor was an attorney who worked for Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and dedicated his 39 years of practice to advocating for the disadvantaged. Attorney Winsor worked endlessly on many cases and battles, but the battle most near and dear to medical interpreters was leading the task of passing the Massachusetts Emergency Room Bill signed into law as Chapter 66 of the Acts of 2000. The law states that all hospitals which provide acute care in emergency rooms or in acute psychiatric services must use competent interpreter services when treating non-English speaking patients. The passing of Chapter 66 of the Acts of 2000 was the forward thrust to professionalize medical interpreters, ultimately allowing disadvantaged patients to have a voice and seek quality care.

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