White Coat Captioning at AMPHL Conference 2015

by Mirabai Knight

White Coat Captioning was a sponsor for the 2015 Association of Medical Professionals With Hearing Loss conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I attended as our representative, and had a fantastic time. Approximately 100 medical professionals, students, interpreters, and captioners were there. I was able to steal away for a few of the conference sessions, and I have to say they all impressed the heck out of me.

My favorite session was "Horns, Claws, and Teeth! Oh, My!", presented by Kimi Ross, a fourth-year veterinary student at Washington State University. Kimi prefers a combination of captioning and interpreters for her classes, and we've had the honor of captioning for her over the past year.  I'm fascinated by all things veterinary (blame James Herriot), so I was looking forward to her session all weekend, and it turned out to be everything I was hoping for. She explained how to gauge the emotional state of several common animals with an emphasis on visual rather than auditory cues. Sure, a dog might growl to show that it's being aggressive, but did you know that "whale eye", where a dog averts their head while keeping their eye fixed on you, can be an indication of fear and anxiety? She went over similar indications for cats, horses, sheep, and cows. The whole presentation was just magnificent.

Earlier that morning I'd had the pleasure of attending the keynote by Dr. Gerard Buckley on the state of science and medical education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester. Since we currently caption for two students at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, this was particularly interesting to me. I also attended a session on PEPNET's resources for captioners and interpreters, which was remarkably helpful.

At our booth we played “Stump the Stenographer” with passers-by. The rule was that anyone could drop a card with their email in our bowl for free, but if they wanted up to two additional chances to win our HP Stream 7 Windows Tablet, they had to come up with a medical word or phrase that I wasn't able to caption. I wasn't allowed to spell it out letter by letter, as I would usually do when a word isn't in my steno dictionary; it had to be predefined, and I had to be able to caption it correctly on the first try.

Some of the words that stumped me: Sertraline, fluoxetine, and polyketonuria, all of which I had in my dictionary but which I couldn't remember how to write in the heat of the moment. Also morgellons, which I could fingerspell but didn't have in my dictionary; lochia, which I had heard of but then forgotten; and Farxiga, which I had never even heard of before. And, of course, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniosis, which is one of those ringer words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and antidisestablishmentarianism that I really should have already had in my dictionary.

Some of the words people tried to stump me with but couldn't, because I already had them at my fingertips: Hyperbilirubinemia, hemochromatosis, lemniscus, Prader-Willi syndrome, omphalophlebitis, hyponatremia, glossopharyngeal, phenobarbital, methylphenidate, sagittal, mitochondria, prolapse, bicuspid, cytomegalovirus, pseudocholinesterase, gentamicin, lorazepam, metoprolol, and choledocholithiasis!

The winning entry was habenula perforata, by renowned deaf audiologist Dr. Samuel R. Atcherson, PhD! I shipped the HP Stream 7 out to him after the conference. Looks like I should read up on my otolaryngological anatomy! Fortunately, before captioning each class we review all the terminology in the professor's PowerPoint slides and add anything that doesn't appear in our dictionaries, so my stump rate is much lower in real-world situations than it was in the game. Still a great way to keep me on my toes. The high school students, college students, medical students, working professionals, and retired professionals who played with me all seemed to have a fun time with it.

I loved meeting the half a dozen or so White Coat Captioning clients who attended the conference; talking to someone in person whom you've only interacted with by Skype is always a wonderful experience. More than anything, though, I was awed to witness the tremendous camaraderie, advice and support shared amongst all the exceptionally brilliant people attending the conference. All sorts of scholars and professionals in diverse fields and at all stages of their careers were there, every single one of them ardently dedicated to helping their patients, their colleagues, and all future deaf and hard of hearing medical professionals. It was an incredible sight to see.