Christa Moran has always had an interest in helping others. Growing up in a family of medical care professionals, family dinner discussions often focused on patients and their care.
When she heard about the claims of a deaf man’s family — that he died of cancer after a medical facility failed to give him a sign language interpreter, which kept him from fully understanding his cancer diagnosis — a light bulb went off in Moran’s head.
“It was something that just hit me. This is something that I need to do,” she said. “I need to put together all the areas I feel I have skills in and a passion for, and do it. I threw myself into getting the training to be an interpreter.”
After intensive medical interpreter training and years of field work, Moran is a supervising staff interpreter and trainer of medical interpreters at University of Michigan Hospital and this year’s James T. Neubacher Award recipient. She will receive the award at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 during a virtual ceremony.
Michigan Medicine’s Interpreter Services provides interpreting and translation services and works to improve access to health care for deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, and limited-English-proficient patients by eliminating language barriers.
“I love my job so much,” Moran said. “I always say that if I won the lottery, I’d still show up for work the next day — just in a nicer car.”
Moran spends most of her work days racing between Michigan Medicine’s hospitals, clinics and health centers, interpreting during in-person and virtual patient appointments.
Like the other highly-trained medical interpreters at Michigan Medicine, she provides equal access to health care so that deaf or limited-English-proficient patients get answers to their questions, understand their surgery plans or are simply able to engage in small talk with their doctors, nurses, or other medical staff, which can often make stressful meetings feel more relaxed or mundane.
“My job is to provide accurate interpretation, but my goal is for the patient and provider to make that important human connection,” she said. “It’s great when the medical professional or the patient looks at me at the end and says, ‘I forgot you were here.’”
Established by the university’s Council for Disability Concerns in October 1990, the Neubacher Award is a memorial to James T. Neubacher, a U-M alumnus and columnist for the Detroit Free Press who advocated for equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities.
The award is presented to a faculty or staff member, student or alumnus for significant achievements in:
- Empowering people with disabilities.
- Advocating for or advancing disability rights or disability justice.
- Increasing the accessibility of programs and services to promote disability inclusion.
Although her primary work is with patients who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing patients, Moran’s colleagues say she works tirelessly to uplift all aspects of the disability community and looks for every way possible to enhance their patient experience.
“Christa worked effortlessly with several members of her interpreting team to ensure that interpreting would still take place remotely when in-person visits were not permitted because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael McKee, assistant professor of family medicine.
As a member of the Michigan Medicine Disability Resource Group, Moran was recently part of a team that worked to expand the ability for patients to notify the health care team of accommodations prior to entering the health system.
She was also behind an effort that made Michigan Medicine one the first hospitals in the country to offer videophones in patients’ rooms and in the emergency department.
“Christa is one of the superheroes living among us,” said Michelle A. Meade, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and co-director at the Center for Disability Health and Wellness. “She is a staunch and fierce advocate for our entire disability community.”