Pediatric resident puts sign language to use on eventful first clinic day

Sept. 1, 2011

Dr. Jacquelyn Fisher
Dr. Jacquelyn Fisher

Dr. Jacquelyn Fisher never realized how handy her knowledge of sign language would be until her first day on the job as a Baylor College of Medicine pediatric resident.

Fresh off her graduation from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Mich., Fisher was very new to Texas when she started in the Harris County Hospital District's Pasadena Clinic June 27 – also the first day the new pediatric clinic opened.

Before she could get settled, Fisher had to deal with a difficult and unique situation when a deaf mother of a hearing child came into the clinic.

As the clinic staff rushed to identify a translator to communicate with the mother, Fisher was able to put her skills to use by communicating with the mother through sign language.

"I never thought I would get to use sign language before Spanish in Houston," said Fisher. She studied Spanish in high school but switched to American Sign Language in college at the University of Michigan. "It was great to be able to communicate with someone who speaks a different language without a translator."

She was so efficient that the request for an American Sign Language translator was cancelled – "the mom said I was doing just fine and to continue!"

Fisher felt like she not only bridged a gap in communication, but culturally as well.

"In deaf culture, it is exciting to speak to a hearing person in sign language," said Fisher. "It shows that person has taken an interest in that culture and does not necessarily see deafness as a problem, just a difference."

"Jacquelyn exemplifies the talent, knowledge and compassion we value in all of our pediatric trainees," said Dr. Mark W. Kline, chair of pediatrics at BCM and physician-in-chief of Texas Children's Hospital. "We serve an incredibly diverse community; we have an obligation to reflect that same diversity among our residents, fellows and faculty."

Fisher is from Milford, Mich. She chose BCM and Texas Children's for her pediatrics residency because she knew she would get an education unlike any other around the country.

"The reputation of the program along with the diversity of conditions that are seen at Texas Children's are unparalleled elsewhere," said Fisher. "I am most excited about getting to work with children and families – helping them navigate through all the crazy twists and turns that come with having and being a kid."