The History of the MiTio Institute with NBCMI First Chair Dr. Nelva Lee

Oct 24, 2023

Transcript of Conversation:

Stephanie (00:31):

Okay. Hello, Dr. Lee. How are you?

Dr. Lee (00:36):

I am well. How are you, Stephanie?

Stephanie (00:38):

Great, thank you. Um, today we wanted to ask you a few questions and, um, we would love to know more about me, Tio, and yourself.

Dr. Lee (00:46):


Stephanie (00:48):

All right. So let's get started. Um, if you wanna introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your, your life or your business.

Dr. Lee (00:55):

Sure. So I'm Dr. Now. I am the CEO and founder of Met Met Inc. Uh, it was previously an LLC under the name of me, the Medical Interpreting and Translating Institute Online. And we founded it in 2004. And at the time, uh, prior to me finally MiTio, I was the director of patient advocacy at the Grady Health System, which is a large public health system here in Georgia, in Atlanta specifically. And as the director of Patient Advocacy, one of the programs under me, uh, in that program was interpreting services. And at the time, back in the early two thousands, a lot of hospitals did not qualify, know that they trained their interpreters. And we were one of the first to do that. And by qualifying our interpreters, we mean that we made sure that they were, in fact, fluent in English and in the target language that they claimed to speak by testing them for that language.

Dr. Lee (01:59):

And then as far as training, we provided them the minimum training at the time. Uh, and we were the first ones, we were the flagship healthcare organization to do that. Uh, it was a bit of a growing pains and learning, learning, uh, how to get that done. And because of all the, the, uh, challenges that we had to go through and work through to get that accomplished throughout the entire health system, uh, once we completed that, I wanted to be able to bring that to other healthcare organizations. So I went to the, um, CEO of Grady at the time and said, Hey, can we develop a program where we can help other healthcare organizations have the same success in this area? Um, he did not think that was a specifically a mission that Grady should do. So I launched MiTio, that was the brainchild of MiTio. And, um, and since then I have been been very passionate about advancing, not just qualification and training for bilingual individuals to become medical interpreters. But since then, we have expanded into corn interpreting as well. Uh, but I was instrumental in getting, um, pushing forward the certification process. I was the first chair of the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. Uh, so I'm very passionate about this field. I am very passionate about t and I look forward to sharing, uh, a little bit more about t's future with you.

Stephanie (03:27):

Great. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, about how long have you been in the industry?

Dr. Lee (03:34):

So, healthcare since I was a teenager, um, but specifically from medical interpreting since the early two thousands when I was at Grady Health System. Now I'm personally bilingual, so I'm from Panama originally, and I don't know if you can see my molas in the back there. Uh, mos are, uh, from the indigenous people of Panama, the Kuna Indians. Uh, and so that's where the logo, the material logo comes from is from the moola. Um, and so yeah, I'm very passionate about languages. I speak, uh, Spanish fluently and I speak French conversationally. And, um, I just love hearing languages, and I believe languages and culture are so intertwined. Um, and so, um, anything to advance language and language fluency and helping our limited English proficient patients, I, I'm up for that.

Stephanie (04:35):

Great. And, um, what would you say is your mission statement for me

Dr. Lee (04:42):

Too? So I would love to share our screen, if you don't mind, share my screen, um, with our mission statement specifically. I have it. So, uh, let's see here. So the mission of is to provide the most effective training for language communication of all industries, uh, with the necessary systems to apply this effectively, uh, through expanding our interpreting and translating institute into a language and communication institute, while also creating application technologies to facilitate language communication at a higher level.

Stephanie (05:29):

Great. <laugh>, that is really great. Thank you. And can you go over, um, what products and services does Meto provide?

Dr. Lee (05:39):

Sure. So we started off, obviously with the training of, uh, medical interpreters. So we provide, uh, a beginner, intermediate and advanced interpreter training. Uh, but we also provide the tools for medical interpreters to be successful. So we provide medical course both, uh, beginner and advance an anatomy physiology course. Both begin and advance an interpreting skills course. Uh, that's very comprehensive. It goes over, uh, note taking skills, memorization skills, fluency skills, um, consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting, all of that. Um, and then we also have an entire core interpreting, um, uh, courses as well, um, in beginner, intermediate, advanced core interpreting courses, inter uh, translating courses, right? Because interpreting is oral, translating is written, and so it's a completely different skillset. Uh, so we have translating courses, beginner, intermediate, and advance, uh, translating courses. Um, and then we also have courses that support, um, kind of the other, uh, in areas in, in, in medical interpreting, specifically mental health interpreting, uh, phone and video interpreting, uh, courses as well. Uh, now for those that are our alumni, they can also apply to work for eo. We, we have an agency where we actually provide the services directly to clients. Uh, and we have several clients all across the nation, uh, that require our services and our interpreting services platform, uh, which is amazing, uh, allows our clients to connect within 20 seconds or less to our qualified train interpreters, uh, in over 200 languages. And so it's amazing. So we offer that service and all. We also offer translation and localization services as well.

Stephanie (07:37):

This all sounds amazing, <laugh> and, okay. So what made you choose your company's location for it to be virtually?

Dr. Lee (07:47):

Right. So at the time that I developed material, there were a few courses that people could take. And there were very, you know, in, I would say in Massachusetts, Washington State, a few in California, here and there. Uh, but for the majority of people, it was very difficult for them to get to any courses and say you lived in California and there was a course, say two or three hours away from you, uh, that was still difficult, right? To get to. Um, and so, yeah, so in the early two thousands, um, online was really the, the solution to be able to, to reach, uh, the majority of students because the training, uh, programs, uh, face to face training programs just were not very plentiful. Um, and we were able to work through a lot of the challenges that an online program faces, right? Uh, so the whole idea of community building.

Dr. Lee (08:41):

So we are, we've been able to do that beautifully through, through our, uh, discussion boards, through our live sessions, through our, um, Facebook community. Um, so we are able to build community that way. Uh, and I mentioned the live sessions, because our practice sessions are so important for new interpreters, they need to be able to really get the scenarios, uh, how, how to do the, um, proper, um, interpreting standards it requires, especially for consecutive interpreting and requires a certain cadence. And they learn all that in a live setting. And so that would, that is why we offer over 15 live sessions every week, <laugh>. So our students have a lot of opportunities, uh, with, with trained, qualified, certified interpreters that they're able to practice different medical scenarios if it corn scenarios, if they're a corn interpreter. Uh, but they're able to learn all of those nuances of what it takes to be an actual interpreter in a live setting. So we do those via zoom, uh, every single day. We have two or three sessions every day, um, for our students to be able to participate in those.

Stephanie (09:56):

That is wonderful and extremely important in perfecting their new career.

Dr. Lee (10:01):


Stephanie (10:03):

Um, what would you say are metos goals?

Dr. Lee (10:07):

Right? So our goals are specifically to just advance interpreting and interpreting language. And I'm gonna share another, let's see if I can pull up our, give me one second. So our vision is, uh, our purpose is to solve the lack of effective language communication by giving bilinguals the training that they need to excel in every industry and create the interpreting and translating systems necessary to allow for effective language communication throughout all of humanities. So that is a very big vision, but we are on track to accomplishing that. And I would say that, uh, one of our, um, new app, new developments that's coming very soon, so you guys are the first to hear it, uh, is that we have a mobile app that's in development right now, and this app is gonna be able to integrate translation, interpretation, closed captioning, transcripts, all in one, and it's gonna be an inexpensive and intuitive, uh, app that the end user is gonna be able to have a seamless experience, uh, in, in their interpretation and translating needs.

Stephanie (11:24):

That is so exciting. I'm, I'm blown away. Like, that is so cool. Um, alright, <laugh>, I, I can't contain it. <laugh>.

Dr. Lee (11:36):

Well, that makes of us, I'm excited as well.

Stephanie (11:39):

How does METTO compare to competitors in the market?

Dr. Lee (11:42):

Right, So one of the things that we found is that the bare minimum, right, to apply for certification is a 40 hour course. Um, but for of us that are in the industry, we know that that's a bare minimum is not cutting, cutting it. Um, and so we feel here with met that quality is so important. Remember, we wanted to advance training before that was okay. And so before that was a cool thing to do, and we wanted to advance certification before that was even a requirement, um, for many places. And we want to advance fully comprehensive education as well. And so one of the things that differentiates us from our competitors is that we provide a diploma program versus just the minimum 40 hour course. And even, uh, we don't provide minimum 40 hour courses for anyone, even those that are in the healthcare industry, uh, for at least three years, they can do the, uh, 60 hour certificate course.

Dr. Lee (12:40):

Uh, they, they're eligible to do that. But for anyone that does not have any training or any experience in healthcare, uh, or interpreting, they have to do our diploma program. And the reason for that is that we want them upon completion of our program to know that they're ready to be interpreters. Medical interpreting is such a high stress job because you are right there with a patient who has a very, um, life and death oftentimes, uh, issue, You know, health shit, you're right there with a healthcare professional that has trained, trained for at least four years if they're a nurse, or 10 years if they're a doctor. And you're not gonna put someone, you're not gonna throw someone in there in that city that's only had 40 hours of training, you're not gonna do that. Uh, it's unfair to them to do that. And that's why we, we stand so strongly behind our comprehensive 160 hour program in our diploma program.

Dr. Lee (13:42):

Uh, it includes the, the four courses that I mentioned earlier, the medical interpreting and, uh, beginner, intermediate, and advance. It also includes medical, uh, terminology one and two, and it includes that skills course that I mentioned. And we also provide, uh, our students with the free, um, language testing. So we set ourselves apart from others in that we believe that when someone goes through our program, they should get as much training and it's much preparation as possible. As I mentioned, those life sessions are included, so they get 24 hours minimum of life practice sessions. And then on top of that we have a certification exam preparation course after that that they can take. So we, we just set ourselves apart from our competitors. There's, it's really comparing apples to oranges when others compare us with other, uh, with other schools. Um, we are accredited by the International Medical Interpreters Association. There's only 10 schools that are accredited by them. We are accredited by cch, I we're accredited by N P E C. And so we feel very confident, uh, in our ability to prepare, uh, students not just for certification exam, but also for the very rigorous, um, job of being a medical interpreter.

Stephanie (15:00):

Wonderful. Yes. And it's, it's wonderful to know as well that when, you know, when you present your resume and it says meto on it, they know that it is legitimate. It's where they've received very rigorous training, so to, to success, to succeed in the job.

Dr. Lee (15:24):

Yeah. Very good representation in the industry. That's correct.

Stephanie (15:30):

Okay. And what, um, what changes have you made to your business strategy over the past few years?

Dr. Lee (15:36):

Many <laugh>, many changes we're constantly improving. So one of the things that I personally do is I read each and every course evaluation. So at the end of the training, students have a course evaluation that they complete. And I read each and every single one of them. I have been doing that since the beginning. And, and I love it because students put in their really great nuggets, Oh, specific question on a quiz or maybe the, the placement of a video or, it's just amazing. Uh, but all the, a lot of the changes that we've done, a lot of the improvements that we've done over the years work for student, um, led uh, changes in improvements, uh, but specifically, uh, as I mentioned, the diploma programs. So that was a major change that we did, uh, just a couple years ago. Uh, we believe in the beginning of 2019, because we, we thought even though we offered the diploma program, students still took the lower course offering.

Dr. Lee (16:41):

Uh, but once we made it mandatory, uh, we saw that the students started taking the diploma program in greater numbers because we just felt like, again, that it was in their best interest to have the more comprehensive course. Uh, if, if you compare us to nursing assistants, nursing home assistants, you know, or nursing assistants, CNAs, they have to, they have to have a hundred hours minimum of training. Um, if you compare us to medical interpreters in Europe, they have to have a hundred hours minimum of training. So we, we are, um, under valuing really our, our interpreters if we just request, require for you. So a lot of the changes that we've made have all been in, in the customers, in the students, um, with the students in mind, uh, over the industry in mind, at the end of the day, the patients, the, in the inpatient in mind.

Stephanie (17:37):

That is great. And, um, so what do you attribute your success?

Dr. Lee (17:45):

Tenacity, <laugh> never giving up. Um, you know, it, it was, it's not, it was not a lucrative, uh, it's not, I would say it's not a lucrative, um, industry to be in. It's a niche of a niche, you know, interpreting services, um, is a niche, um, industry. And then you have medical interpreting, which is a, a smaller segment of that. Um, and so it, but it's something that I'm very passionate about, and so I'm going to stick with it. And I'm, I have a lot of persistence and tenacity, uh, and, um, I, I, I believe very deeply in making sure that my alumni are well prepared and also well employed. And so that's the, that's the next goal of Meto our North Star, is to be able to fully employ every single one of our alumni that is our North Star. Um, and so we, we are working very hard on that end, you know, with with growing our, our, our interpreting services and our translating services, uh, in building up our clientele on that end.

Stephanie (18:54):

Okay. So let's go to the next question. Is this product or service offered, um, nationally, internationally, where, how can I enroll?

Dr. Lee (19:04):

Right. So the bd of having an online program as well, one of the benefits of it is that it's available everywhere. So na nationally, we have students from all across the nation. I believe every every state, uh, has been represented, um, in our student population. But also, uh, we have students internationally as well. We have students from Europe, from Asia, from Central America, South America. So it's beautiful. Um, and as I mentioned earlier, it's, uh, it's cultures, uh, when they're able to learn from each other. It's a beautiful thing. When we see them in the life sessions interacting, it's, it's amazing. I often send me, Tia was my baby <laugh>. I've, I've given birth of two children, and, and then the third with me, Tia.

Stephanie (19:52):

All right? Yes. So, um, if you had one piece of advice to, to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Dr. Lee (20:01):

Don't give up on yourself. So often times when students first start our program, they get in those life sessions and they get overwhelmed. They go, Oh my goodness, you know, I didn't know that this was what interpreting entails, or I didn't know, uh, the fast pace of it or whatever excuse they, they have. Um, I just, I, I wanted to just tell those students don't give up. There are ways to improve your memorization skills. There are ways to improve your note taking skills. All of those things are skills that you can acquire if you worked hard on it. Uh, but you, if you give up on yourself, you're never going to get to that end. Uh, so often times if students stick with it, they'll see their improvement week by week. Once I went, by the end of that diploma program, they know, as I mentioned, they know that they're capable. Um, but that's only for those that stick with it and, and actually put in the work.

Stephanie (21:00):

Awesome. <laugh>?

Dr. Lee (21:02):


Stephanie (21:03):

And, um, where can I find out more information about me to you?

Dr. Lee (21:09):

Sure. You can go to our website, Um, one of beauties of our program is that we have program specialists that will walk you through every, every new and cranny of our program. Uh, so you can schedule a call with them, uh, and, and they'll be able to really flesh out, you know, the reasons why you wanna be a medical interpreter or a court interpreter, and really, uh, have a feel for, um, you know, how you can navigate, uh, the course going forward. So we encourage everyone to schedule a com with one of our program specialists. You can do that from our website, Um, or just, you know, watch our webinar and, and learn more about us. Uh, and then we also offer a free trial as well, a two week free trial for those that are kind of iffy. If, if online is for them, they can do the, the free trial and, and it can really give them a sense of what the course is gonna be like. So yeah, those are really great avenues to get started. And if you're a business that wants to do business with us, we, like I said, we have amazing, well qualified alumni and we would love to be able to, to meet your interpreting and translating needs. So just give us a call.

Stephanie (22:21):

So what would you say motivates you?

Dr. Lee (22:26):

Uh, I think when you find something that you're passionate about, that in itself is a motivator. So you don't have to, Oh, I have to wake up this morning, or I have to go to work. I look forward to getting, solving a problem and, and, and getting answers to solutions. It's beautiful that I'm in an industry that it's, um, that has so many challenges, if you will. I, I think it's a great thing because I, I'm one of those people that loves, loves a good challenge. And so, um, you know, there's things that we really, that as an industry, we still need to solve. For instance, certification. I want to make sure that certification becomes mandatory, not just an option a lot, There are a lot of employers out there that, um, they're making it mandatory, but I want it to be mandatory across the board. I want to stop to end the use of unqualified ad hoc interpreters. And we're still seeing that till, till today, 20, 20, 21, 20 21, we're still seeing ad hoc interpreters use in healthcare, and I wanna stop that. So those are challenges that make me, that give me the, um, every day to see, okay, how can we, how can we accomplish that? How can we solve that? Um, and so I do my little part and, uh, that keeps me motivated every morning to, to keep going.

Stephanie (23:55):

Cool. And the next question is, how do you define success?

Dr. Lee (24:05):

Well, um, I'm a Christian first of all. And so success is, um, is accomplishing my purpose for, for God, you know, so that is really my personal definition of success. Um, I read this book called The Purpose Driven Life a few years ago by Rig Warren, and it's a really great book. If you go through it, it really helps you, I believe, um, uh, Phelps, um, actually went through it as well. Um, but if you go through it and it makes you, it forces you, if you will, to identify what your purpose is. And then you go after your purpose. You know, you have, you live life on purpose. And so that's how I define success, is making sure that I accomplish the things that I believe I was put on the earth for. And everybody has a purpose. We just, many people just dunno what that is. And so it's just a matter of first defining it and then being courageous enough to going after it.

Stephanie (25:06):

Yeah, your passion for helping others is very contagious.

Dr. Lee (25:09):

<laugh> awesome.

Stephanie (25:11):

Which is absolutely great. And, um, so the next question is, what has been your most satisfying moment in business so far?

Dr. Lee (25:23):

Wow. Uh, have a lot. Um, gosh, the most is hard to to, to tell you, but I can tell you about a few things that I, that I love. Um, for, for instance, just a few months ago, I was a keynote speaker at a, um, at a symposium, um, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Had a, had a symposium, and, um, I had a, a keynote speech. I actually recorded one and then did another one, uh, live for them. And then I was able to interact with the, with the participants later. And honestly, that was like the happiest, one of the happiest days I had all year, because I just love teaching. You know, my background is also in, in, in, um, in education. I was a professor for many years, which is what led me to, to be able to marry the two, you know, the healthcare administration and the, and the teaching part, uh, with ut. Uh, so yeah. So I was able to, to bring all of those skill sets, uh, that I've been blessed with, um, in, and that was a wonderful opportunity to do that. So that was just the most recent, um, way that, um, that I felt very fulfilled and, and very accomplished in my business. But there are many, many, many <laugh>.

Stephanie (26:44):

Awesome. And what would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful interpreter?

Dr. Lee (26:52):

So to be a successful interpreter, you do need to have a, the ability to learn, um, medical terminology, lots of jargon, whether you're court interpreter or medical interpreter, jargon is your friend <laugh>, because there's lots of very specified jargon, right? And so you want to, to, uh, you need to know right up front that you're gonna have to learn a lot of information. And successful interpreters never stop learning, right? So they're constantly learning new things, learning about different, uh, new, um, new specializations, new ways of, um, addressing different diseases, things like that. And so that's one of the things that we drill into our students. It's, it's this a lifelong learning, teach them how to learn how different things about medical terminology and, um, and diseases and et cetera. Um, another skillset, um, is memorization. So oftentimes, I I explain about our students when they join, that they're overwhelmed, It's because they're just, they were never taught how to memorize things, right?

Dr. Lee (27:59):

And so, as an interpreter, you have to take the information in, keep it there long enough to be able to decode it into another, wor into another language that is a skill <laugh>. Um, and it requires you to be able to memorize that information long enough to be able to decode it properly. Um, and so we teach them how to do that. And so, um, but it's, it's a, it's a skill and you have to be patient with yourself as you're, as you're learning that skill. Um, and so, and then note taking helps, right? We teach 'em how to take notes so that it helps with your memorization. Um, and so, and then the third skill I would say, uh, is just interpersonal skills. Becaue when you're in a hospital setting, uh, even if you're a remote interpreter, you're, you're interacting with lots of different people at lots of different levels of education.

Dr. Lee (28:49):

Um, whether it's your patient, he, the, your patient may or may not be a, maybe it's a child or maybe it's an elderly patient or maybe someone with very limited education or you, uh, interacting with a doctor, again, 10 plus years of education or, or a another, uh, healthcare provider with various levels of education that can be very intimidating to the best of us, right? Uh, dealing with all those levels. So you just have to be someone that is able to interact well with people. <laugh>, you have to be able to be respectful and cordial and have good customer service, um, and just have, uh, a level of, of confidence and poise about you. Um, and that's why interpreting is, it's a, um, very challenging position. But those are three def definitely three things that I would encourage all interpreters to achieve to attain to.



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