Health Voices Translate To Award

May 9, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Following her personal mission to reach out to more people, Michelle Scott combined her love of the health care industry and a nursing degree with her passion for teaching. The result? Voices For Health.

This year Voices For Health is taking home one of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year awards and is being recognized for the work it has done in the community since it was created five years ago.

As a community health nurse, Scott worked in a Spanish clinic in the area and had seen a need for translation services.

“I would see many patients that couldn’t get the services they needed outside of the clinic because there weren’t any translators around,” said Scott, president of Voices For Health. “I started the business as a health care provider, which was a unique view and also a better way to reach and educate health care providers.”

Scott, Vice President Carlos Pava, a team of nine staff members and more than 100 contract interpreters set out to help the health care industry address the linguistic and cultural needs of the community in order to improve access to services.

The small business offers interpretation on-site or by telephone, 24 hours a day, for 23 different languages, with the biggest demand for Spanish and Vietnamese interpreters.

Voices for Health also offers translation and editing services; consultation in cultural competency and bilingual staffing; seminars on Hispanic health issues, immigrant communities and migrant farm workers; research assistants for research projects; interpreter education; and Spanish courses for health care professionals in both group and individual settings.

The business also has been growing over the past five years, moving into the social services arena.

“Over time more organizations have taken notice of our services and want to offer them to their clients, patients and business partners,” said Scott. “We are going to be working in education, with juvenile services, pharmaceutical companies and several others; and this all falls underneath the community health umbrella.”

Scott also hopes to grow the business geographically, both locally and nationally. However, for now she is enjoying the recognition of the Small Business of the Year Award.

“As a small business you sometimes forget that your passion is really a business and is really helping people,” said Scott. “I have to remember that what I come in and do every day and what I love is really helping the community. And besides, it is exciting to be acknowledged and it is exciting that the entire team’s hard work is being recognized.”

Victor Diaz, who works for the Speaker of the House, nominated the business and said he has known both Scott and Pava since the inception of the business. In the five years since then he has seen the business explode with new services and growth.

“I have seen this business grow more than the Hispanic population in Sturgis,” exclaimed Diaz. “This is more than making a dream happen; they continually take the dream, re-evaluate it and continue to dream.”

Diaz added that this award is great recognition for the hard work the business has put in and also validates how Voices for Health created a niche in the market only it can fill. He sees the business as a one-stop-shop for translation services in the Grand Rapids area and beyond, which is something he said is crucial to the business world.

“Translation services are going to be something that is vital to business growth in the future. Voices for Health has cornered the market and, I think, become the only translation services, one-stop shop for businesses out there,” said Diaz. “With the number of services and how they are growing to accommodate the technologically changing and diverse business climate, they will be successful. I wouldn’t have nominated them if I didn’t believe in them.”

The GRACC honor also is a chance for Scott to thank and recognize some of the groups that assisted her when she was just starting Voices For Health.

She noted that one organization she used extensively was a chamber program called SCORE, for Service Corps of Retired Executives, which helps small businesses through a no-fee mentoring and business-counseling program.

Scott said she was able to get information on setting up a financial plan, legal liability answers and marketing services.

“That really helped me start out and now good people have helped us grow,” said Scott. “It is exciting to be acknowledged in this way. Sometimes as a small business there aren’t always financial means to acknowledge employees’ hard work, so this is a great way to thank all of our employees.”           

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