How working as a medical translator helps my medical career
We live in a world where national borders are becoming more and more meaningless. Air travel has provided us with an opportunity never before seen in history – the ability to travel to the other side of the world in less than 24 hours. The internet provides us with the ability to see and learn more than anyone could before. Translation gives us a way to expand our horizons and communicate more effectively. And medical translation provides a great way for any professional to become a medical translator and collaborate with fellow specialists from all over the world to take healing to a whole other level.
Medicine is one of humanity’s most important sciences. I would say it’s more of an art. The art to imagine what’s going on inside ourselves, to understand how our bodies work, what can go wrong and how to fix it. How to make us live longer, healthier lives and achieve more in our lifetime. From the dawn of time people have been wondering how to help someone who is sick or hurt. It’s one of life’s ultimate qualities – to sustain itself. It’s what makes us different from a pile of lifeless carbon-based chemical compounds. Hundreds of religions and cultures have tried to explain what the human body is, where it came from, what happens to it when we die. They have tried to explain the different illnesses with the wrath of the god(s). As civilization progressed further, the human mind started exploring and experimenting more than ever. Asking even more questions, theorizing, searching for alternative explanations. That’s how modern medicine came to be. However, one major problem remains to this day…
No scientific discovery was made by a single person. Even the greatest scientists in history, with whom we associate a given discovery, were influenced and taught by researchers before them. Many of these scientists were far away from each other, divided by physical barriers such as oceans and mountains, by political ideologies, racial stereotypes and religious isolation. These are some of the major obstacles to scientific progress. We learned to cross oceans and mountains. It’s time to overcome the rest of the obstacles. A Christian doctor from Germany working in the field of neurosurgery wants the exact same thing as a Muslim neurosurgeon from the USA. To heal their patients and understand better how the brain works. Overcoming their differences and working together, so they can achieve more. And language shouldn’t be an obstacle to that.
My first experience as a medical translator happened during my second year as a medical student. I was looking for a way to pay for my education. Also, I was naive enough to think that the university would provide me with all the knowledge I would need to become a successful doctor. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Coming from a small post-communist country, I was faced with the inability and unwillingness of many of my professors to communicate with their foreign colleagues. The fact is that the sciences in democratic societies advance at a much faster rate compared to states under dictatorship. And unfortunately medicine isn’t an exception. Many of the textbooks and lectures I had to learn from were outdated and are still catching-up. This made it necessary for me to seek other ways to learn the newest trends in medicine and gave me the idea of becoming a medical translator.
Translation for Self-improvement
Medical translation provides me with a unique opportunity – a first row seat to the medicine of the future. Working primarily for the pharmaceutical industry, I always keep up with the newest scientific research projects in my field. I get to write about the latest and most innovative drugs and medical devices in development. It’s amazing to see how everything I’ve learned as a theory becomes alive in practice, how every little detail is important. As a doctor, when treating my patients I have to be aware of techniques or drugs that were developed literally yesterday. That is the only way I can provide them with the most adequate treatment.
When translating, I try to provide the best expertise and knowledge I have in the field of medicine as it is being practised in Bulgaria. Due to the reasons above, many of the scientific terms are being introduced in Bulgarian for the very first time. Most medical doctors are not linguists, nor do they have any linguistic background. They have to accommodate the foreign terms to the best of their knowledge. This leads to many inconsistencies, changes of meaning and sometimes the mistakes can be quite severe. Medical translation is usually quite specialized and requires a ton of additional research on the translator’s part. A typical medical translator’s day involves “jumping” between fields such as cardiovascular surgery, drug development, oncology, microbiology, immunology and clinical laboratory within hours. This can be quite difficult, but it’s a vast opportunity to understand the relationships between the different processes in the human body down to the atomic level.
A medical translator’s focus is on quality
One of the best friends of a medical translator is the reviewer. He or she acts as the missing link between Medicine and Language. This requires a great deal of linguistic expertise and significant general knowledge and experience in the field. The medical translator and reviewer together represent a “communication bridge” between the pharmaceutical company and the physician providing treatment to the patient. It’s a long chain of different specialists who have to collaborate at every stage of the localization process. Involving so many professionals in this process may indeed seem like a waste of time and money. However, when the lives and well-being of people is at stake, there can be no compromise.
I strongly believe that the medicine of the future will be a collaboration of people regardless of their scientific/medical specialty, country, ethnics, race, gender, religion and political ideology. As a medical translator, I try to make my small contribution and help my colleagues from all around the world connect, communicate and work together to make the world a happier and pain-free place. Because health is the most important thing to us humans.
Health and chocolate.
About the author
Emiliyan Manolov, DMD, MSc
With a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the Medical University of Sofia and 4 years of translation experience Emiliyan is successfully combining the best of both worlds – Medicine and Localization. He has been working with TransGlobe since the start of his translation career and has translated more than 3.2 million words or almost 13,000 pages in Life-Science, Medical and Pharmaceutical projects.