Professor of Communication and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Research Margaret L. McLaughlin shows a graduation picture of guest speaker Dr. Sandi W. Smith during the 8th annual Walt Fisher Lecture series at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

NSF awards $2.2 million grant to improve bilingual, bicultural communication at medical facilities

Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Research and communication professor Margaret McLaughlin is the co-principal investigator for a team of computer scientists, communication specialists and health professionals that received a 4-year $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The team will work on an English/Spanish Speech-to-Speech (S2S) translation system to help healthcare givers and patients. The S2S system — which could be used in clinics, emergency rooms and ambulances — would improve care that is delayed, complicated or jeopardized at medical facilities around the country because doctors and patients don't speak the same language.

"My role is to try and both contribute to the development of the technology and evaluate the technology in terms of usability," McLaughlin said. "So, I’m interested in questions such as whether or not patients felt as if they were understood using this system, whether the doctor feels as if he or she was able to understand the patient, and their degree of satisfaction with the consultation."

McLaughlin, the co-principal investigator for the project, will collaborate with Shrikanth Narayanan (principal investigator), who directs the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and Panayiotis Georgiou (co-principal investigator), a professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and with researchers and clinicians from the Keck School of Medicine at USC on the project.

McLaughlin said it will be important to recognize idioms that could be different in various regions in addition to words from medical dictionaries and journals.

"We want to know informal medical or healthcare talk as well as be able to quote dictionary or text-based words," she said.

Read more about the project
National Science Foundation 
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