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Raquel Cashman's Spirit Long Lives in MMIA
Maria Durham

On July 17th, 1998 many of us who knew Raquel Cashman will commemorate the third anniversary of her death. Some of us who worked very closed with her and knew her well can still see her and hear her voice. But, those who did not know her may very well ask, who was she? What did she do?

Raquel worked intensively in promoting and implementing equal and appropriate health care access for all those who needed it. For this to happene, she knew, not only administrative support and interagency communication needed to exist but, as important, qualified practitioners and professional interpreters needed to be available. To ensure the best possible qualification (i.e. culturally competent providers and availability of professional interpreters) training and education needed to be established. Establishing the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association, creating education and training programs for providers and interpreters, providing professional medical interpreter services and interacting with other agencies was at the core of all Raquel's daily efforts and energy.

Raquel Cashman's legacy must not be forgotten. For this reason, and to celebrate Raquel's life and achievements MMIA announced, in October 1995, the establishment of the Raquel Cashman Scholarship Award. MMIA has since been committed to developing the guidelines and requirements for awarding this scholarship and to identifying and supporting the efforts of eligible candidates who have demonstrated, through actions, their understanding of issues supporting the development of medical interpreting as a profession, as well as the need to promote and implement professional training and professional interpreter services.

On the occasion of Raquel Cashman's memorial at the time of her death, the following was written (exerpts) by some of those who knew her well:

MMIA Newsletter - August 1, 1995:
The Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association is in mourning. Our founder and past president Raquel Cashman passed away on Monday, July 17 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Raquel was a pioneer in the field of medical interpreting and tireless in her efforts to raise the standards of medical interpreting. She formed the original Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association back in the eighties as well as the present organization and will be remembered by many whom she touched with her humanity and caring. She was an inspiration for all of us as well as a dear friend.

A Lasting Legacy by Stacey Simon:
Raquel Cashman, Boston City Hospital's former director of interpreter services, died at her family home in Buenos Aires on July 17, 1995. While the friends and family she left behind are grappling with the huge void her death has left in our lives, the patients and staff who walk through the doors of Boston City Hospital have been left with a legacy that is recognized nationally.

As the founder of the Department of Health and Hospitals' Department of Interpreter Services, Raquel's professionalism and commitment to the city's multicultural, multiethnic populations are embodied in the culturally-appropriate, compassionate care provided by that institution's caregivers today. During the more than five years that she served as the hospital's director of interpreter services, Raquel dedicated herself to improving the quality of medical care provided to non-English speaking populations. The department she founded is recognized as a national model.

Argentinian by birth, Raquel recognized that language was but one barrier to good health care; understanding the traits particular to different cultures was just as necessary to good diagnosis and treatment. Working with medical staff, she developed curricula in crosscultural communication that physicians trained at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston City Hospital interns and residents continue to receive today.

Even in other areas of her life, Raquel sought to ensure that the very special needs of the state's cultural and linguistic minorities received first-class care. She was a founder and president of the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association and served on the state task force that drafted legislation mandating that all health care institutions in the Commonwealth provide professional interpreting services. A member of the state's Latino Health Council and the Refugee Health Advisory Committee, Raquel also worked with Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill to develop the state's first academic curriculum for medical interpreters.

Quite diminutive in stature, Raquel's influence on the lives she touched nevertheless packed a significant punch. From the Hispanic women of Union, New Jersey whose babies were born healthy because they received culturally-appropriate prenatal care at a clinic she founded, to the new mothers who depended on training in prenatal and postpartum care, nutrition, breast-feeding, and parenting that she developed, Raquel's influence was exponential. And the mark she left on Boston City Hospital, everlasting.

David H. Mulligan, Commissioner
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Public Health:

On this special occasion, when Raquel Cashman 's friends and family meet to remember her, I would like to join them in spirit.

The Department of Public Health had the great privilege to count Raquel among its partners and allies in its mission to promote and assure conditions that improve and protect the health of all Massachusetts residents.

As a member of the Latino Health Council and the DPH Refugee Health Advisory Committee, Raquel was tireless in her efforts to improve and expand medical interpreter services and to prevent domestic violence. Her energy and dedication was a source of strength and hope to those who worked with her.

As a lasting tribute, all of us should be inspired by her example to continue the important work she could not finish.

Robert W. Putsch, MD - Cross Cultural Health Care Program - Seattle,

News of the death of Raquel Cashman in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 17, 1995 came as a shock. Raquel was one of those rare individuals whose life was truly heroic. She championed the cause of patients in health care, and especially patients and populations who had experienced barriers to care.

Raquel undertook this work during a time when few institutions were paying any attention to issues of access, class, language, culture and beliefs. She had chosen a clear course and effected real change during her lifetime.

I first learned of Raquel's work when I reviewed her teaching tape on the bilingual medical interview. Later, I had the opportunity to visit her on more than one occasion at Boston City Hospital and to talk with her. I came to admire her energy, her work, her delight over her successes and struggles within the system. Her perceptions and struggles with systems that failed to meet basic human needs in health service settings were clear, and she had an extraordinary sense of social justice.

In many ways, she was instrumental, a true founder of efforts to bring individuals involved in cross-cultural care, health care interpretation and interviewing together. To those of us who were privileged to know her as well as to meet her, her life, her knowledge and her spirit were a true gift.

Our thanks to you Raquel, we will miss your presence, your leadership and your guidance. You have taught us many things and you should know that your spirit, your views and your energies live on.


Remembering Raquel Cashman
by members of Health Care For All:

Health Care For All Board Member Raquel Cashman died last month at her family home in Buenos Aires. In 1993 Health Care For All honored Raquel with a: "For the People, Against the Tide" award stating, "Raquel Cashman . . . has been devoted to providing equal access to health care for non-English speaking patients since 1986. In a climate of budget cuts and little understanding of immigrants' needs, Cashman was able to establish the department of interpreter services as a permanent fixture at Boston City Hospital."

Paul Bevilacqua, Northern Essex Community College:
Raquel was a gifted, committed person. She felt fortunate to have the life she had.

Raquel received the following posthumous awards:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Public Health 
The first annual Eduardo Paez-Carrillo Award to honor the achievements of individuals who have been dedicated to the improvement of public health in the Latino community. We are honored to have Rachel Cashman as one of the recipients of the Eduardo Paez-Carrillo Award. She has enhanced the quality of health care for Latinos throughout the Commonwealth, with her deep commitment to providing interpreter services.O ctober, 1995.

Latino Health Institute
    Nicolas Parkhurst Carballeira, ND, MPH
    Director and Chief Executive Officer
    The Board of Directors of The Latino Health Institute
establishes in perpetuity
The Raquel Cashman Memorial Lecture
on Health, Culture and Communication
in tribute to and celebration of
the life and work of Raquel Cashman
October, 1995


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