Celebrating National Day of Portugal (June 10): Maria Da Costa, Manager, Interpreter Services

To Maria, June 10 is a day to honor my heritage

When she was 12 years old, Maria Da Costa began helping Portuguese-speaking family, friends and neighbors when they needed an interpreter. However, it wasn’t until she enrolled in a Medical Interpreter Training program in 2006 that she realized that being an interpreter involved more than being bilingual.

“I quickly learned that being a professional medical interpreter required a great deal more skill and nuance than I first thought,” she says.  “For example, using proper medical terminology is crucial. When we learn a language at home and do not know the correct or proper words for bodily functions, body parts, organs, diseases, etc., it can result in a misdiagnosis for the patient. The interpreter also has different roles that I had no idea existed.”

As the Manager of Interpreter Services, Maria says there are many different facets to her work assisting patients with limited English-speaking ability and those with difficulty hearing. One important aspect of her job is to arrange for in-person interpreters throughout Southcoast Health.

“We work closely with our colleagues and continually look for ways to make our processes efficient so that we can make in-person interpreting services available as often as possible,” says Maria. When in-person services can’t be arranged, Southcoast always provides remote interpreter services.

Maria was hired a year and a half ago, and she quickly moved up to her manager role. “I feel fortunate,” she says. “I heard that Southcoast Health was and is a nice hospital system to work for so when a position became available, I quickly applied. I’m so thankful that I did. I love it here.”

Maria takes satisfaction in Southcoast’s commitment and Interpreter Services’ dedication to patients and each other, as well as to providing quality care. “We always strive to provide exceptional care to our patients and colleagues alike,” she says.

“Professionally, I’m always looking for ways to enhance the care experience and service for patients with limited English-speaking ability and who rely on our services. And to surpass their expectations!”

Significance of the National Day of Portugal (June 10)

“June 10 is a day to honor my heritage and the country I was born in,” Maria says. “A day to be grateful for who I am and to reflect upon the great history of the people of Portugal.”

Portuguese food is an important part of her enjoyment of the holiday and a way to connect with her culture. “I celebrate by overindulging in some of my favorite Portuguese foods, including – but not limited – to bacalhau (salt cod), pastéis de nata (a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry) and São Jorge cheese and papo secos (traditional Portuguese rolls),” she says. 

“In years past, I loved taking my family to the Day of Portugal celebration in New Bedford. A section of Acushnet Avenue was closed, booths selling different foods lined the streets, and vendors sold many types of Portuguese items. This was such a nice way to remember, reconnect and keep our culture alive, especially for my children.”

Growing up Portuguese American

“It was not easy for me when I first came to America. Because I did not speak English, I was excluded from play groups during recess and did not have many friends during the first couple of years in school. And, as there were only a few doctors who spoke Portuguese back then, my family and I had to rely on other English-speaking family members to accompany us to doctor’s appointments and the Emergency Department when needed,” Maria says.

“These experiences, along with my parents’ encouragement to always help others, instilled in me a desire to always help those who do not speak English. I’m very grateful, though, that my parents insisted we speak Portuguese at home and take Portuguese classes. Because of this, I’ve been able to help many people through the years with my fluency in Portuguese.”

In the Portuguese culture, family is very important.

“My family is very important to me, and I love spending time with them,” Maria says. “I’m so thankful we have each other and for all that we have together.” 

To learn more about Southcoast’s Day of Portugal Celebration please visit Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Southcoast Health | Southcoast Health.