Dr. Eric Hardt Honored for Contributions to the Field of Medical Interpreting

On Friday, June 4th, retired MD and current Found in Translation board member Dr. Eric Hardt was awarded the Tony Windsor Award at the 2021 MassAHEC Paving The Way to Healthcare Access Conference. 

Eric Hardt has been advocating for training standards for medical interpreters for decades

This award honors the legacy of Tony Windsor, a Massachusetts attorney who led efforts to pass the Massachusetts Emergency Room Bill in 2000. This 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 this legislation was the forward thrust to professionalize medical interpreters and ultimately allowing disadvantaged patients to have a voice and seek quality care.

The Tony Windsor Award honors a person who has advocated for professionalizing the work of a medical interpreter to improve language access for all persons by advocating for the utilization of medical interpreters, providing education for medical interpreters, or promoting the work of  medical interpreters. 

Nominated by colleagues at Found in Translation, Eric Hardt received this award in recognition of the decades of advocacy, research, and academic support he has dedicated to language access and interpreter training. 

Eric delivering an address at the Found in Translation Class of 2017 program celebration event

Eric Hardt was Tony Windsor’s long-time “partner in crime” in language access work. At Tony’s request, Eric conducted research on the cost and value of medical interpreters, and together they used this research to pass Massachusetts’ first bill requiring medical interpreters in emergency rooms and psychiatric units. Eric is not an interpreter, but an M.D., and a monolingual one at that. Yet advocacy and training for medical interpreters has always been the most important aspect of his academic, political, and intellectual work, at least since 1985. 

Our work at Found in Translation is in strengthening the medical interpreter workforce by paving a path for candidates with high talent but low economic resources to enter the profession—a profession that might look very different today if not for Eric Hardt. I first learned of Eric as the author of critical research, some of the first of its kind, showing the financial costs and clinical consequences of language barriers, and demonstrating the difference in error rate between ad hoc and professional interpreters. Eric used his position to give recognition and credibility to the medical interpreting field, which was instrumental to the passage of state laws, institution-level policies, and culture change. Without his contributions, relentlessly over decades, many more LEP patients would still be relying on their children or the receptionist for interpretation today. And many interpreters would not have a job market to support them—including those we train at Found in Translation. We, like much of the field, exist in part thanks to Eric’s legacy, and we are grateful and proud to have him serving on our board of directors.”

Maria Vertkin, Founder and Executive Director of Found in Translation 
A long-time guest lecturer for Found in Translation’s interpreter training, Eric speaks to the Class of 2021 on Interpreting in Geriatric Encounters.

For many years at medical interpreter events in the Boston area Eric Hardt was the sole attendee from the other side of the triad, the only doctor who ‘got it’ about the need for trained, professional interpreters. He was (and still is) a fierce advocate for the profession and for linguistic access before there were standards of practice or certification. 

Eric became our ‘interpreter’- interpreting what we were saying about the need for trained medical interpreters into a language that doctors and the medical establishment could finally hear. He was one of the first to conduct the actual research that drove home the point that interpreters not only help physicians provide better care, but also save hospitals money in unnecessary testing and misdiagnosis. This was the language that hospitals and doctors could finally understand. 

He has served on too many boards and committees on linguistic access to be relayed here. His CV is 33 pages long! While being board certified in Geriatrics, Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Hospice and Palliative and still conducting in-home visits to his elderly patients, he has spent years speaking out on our profession and has done much to get us where we are today both locally and nationally.

Gaye Gentes, Board Member and former Program Director of Found in Translation

Congratulations Eric! We are thankful for your dedication to language access and medical interpreting, and so honored to count you as a member of the Found in Translation community. 

Watch the award presentation video here: