S-SPIRE Admin Finds Empathy, Opportunity in Translation

August 3, 2018

Out of the hundreds of articles published by Department of Surgery faculty and trainees so far this year, only one has the distinction of being authored by an administrator. Ana Mezynski, the administrative associate III at the Stanford-Surgery Policy Improvement, Research, and Education (S-SPIRE) Center, recently had her work accepted by the journal Surgery.

“This was my first experience transcribing in Spanish, which connected me on a deeper level to the project,” said Mezynski. “I learned that Stanford has a vision to improve policies, even if it is not in the US, and that made me appreciate the opportunity even more.”

Lost in translation: Informed consent in the medical mission setting explored whether patients undergoing inguinal hernia repairs at a mission hospital in Guatemala comprehended the surgical risks involved. Division of General Surgery PD Resident Dr. Lindsay Sceats was the lead author on the study.

While often administrators and study coordinators may be listed in the acknowledgements section of scientific papers, we felt strongly that the amount of work Ana put into transcription and data preparation deserved formal recognition and authorship,” said Sceats. “I'm very grateful to her for the amount of effort she put forth for our study in addition to her very full job keeping S-SPIRE running.”

Because the work was in addition to her regular duties at S-SPIRE, Mezynski says she worked all hours to complete the transcriptions and translations on schedule.

“My first reaction when Lindsay told me my name would be on the paper was astonishment; I was so excited,” said Mezynski. “Then I thought about all the work that would be part of it. I was up at 5AM and going to bed at midnight.”

Mezynski earned her transcription certification while working for the Stanford Neurology Department back in 2004. After transcribing each of the 13 interviews, Mezynski then translated them into English.

We needed someone with 3 critical abilities: fast and meticulous transcription of audio recordings, accurate interpretation of medical language in English and Spanish, and fluency in the local vernacular to ensure that we captured the meaning—not just words,” said Dr. Arden Morris, director of S-SPIRE and an author on the paper. “Ana had all of those qualities and was a key member of the research team.”

Although Mezynski has worked previously with grant acquisition, she says this experience gave her a greater understanding of the full research process.

“Working with the team at this point in the process made me aware of all the steps that it takes for a researcher to go from idea inception to article accepted,” said Mezynski.

Despite the time commitment, Mezynski said she would be thrilled to use her skills to improve global health policy again in the future.

“I’m proud that I work for a department that takes an active role improving the lives of people in low income countries,” said Mezynski. “Listening to Latin families talk about their challenges connected me to my upbringing, and I wish I could do more to help families that have to travel hours to get free medical care.”