PHOENIX -- Thousands of refugees have come to Arizona, looking for a better life. But many speak little or no English and that means even finding basic needs like a family doctor can be a challenge.
But it turns out one Valley doctor is working to change that. She is helping refugees and other immigrants get medical help in their own language because Dr. Linda Som knows firsthand the challenges they face.
“I should have been dead many many times," she said. "I got caught in the whole killing fields and then we escaped by night.”
But many years and thousands of miles from the killing fields of Cambodia, Som is quite clearly not dead; far from it, she is in the business of saving lives.
Som and her husband, Dr. Andy Le, run Arizona Medical Clinic, which on the surface may look like any other doctor's office, unless you stop and listen. Because among the doctors and nurses there are also a host of translators speaking a host of laguages.
Som said with a large and growing refugee community here, they quickly saw a need for medical translators and began hiring help.
Prim Bhandari, himself a refugee from Bhutan, said the translation services can literally save lives.
"They cannot express their feelings to other family doctors and their sickness was not treated properly,“ Bhandari said.
And while some other clinics do have translator phone lines, Chandra Bhandari said having translators on-site makes it much easier.
“There will be a doctor at any time for us and we don’t have to worry about the language problem because there will be all of the time an interpreter,” Bhandari said.
Som said that is part of the reason they have lab services on site as well.
“A lot of our patients do not have transportation and when we send them for imaging or tests they are not able to go or they don’t go or know what to say or do,” she said.
And it is not all about language.
“They feel more comfortable because they said finally I can speak to somebody who would understand and know the refugee background,” Som said.
Som said Arizona Medical Clinic does all of this because she knows firsthand the challenges refugees face and the promise that America holds.
"The world basically comes to us, it is a melting pot whether we like it or not and do we embrace it or do we just ignore it and we choose to embrace it, and we choose to make it a better environment here," she said.
Arizona Medical Clinic also sponsors an annual Christmas party for the refugee community and has an on-site donation center.
For more information, call 602-274-2100.