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Interpreters in action

Read about how CCHC interpreters and translators have met the challenge of the pandemic.


Published on April 18, 2021

 10 Questions with Ceci Phelan-Stiles Ceci laughs about her connection to Marvel movies, apple cider vinegar and Mexico's first flushable toilet

Ceci Phelan-Stiles is the senior manager for Interpreter Services at Cape Cod Healthcare. Ceci and her team of interpreters and translators serve patients and are currently working with non-English speaking members of the community to schedule them for COVID-19 vaccines.

1. What was your very first job?

You’re going to laugh, but for my very, very first job, I taught English to 5- and 6-year-old kids. I was in Venezuela and I went to the international school. After school, I would go to this little daycare. I loved it – the little kids were great.

It’s just so funny that even back then, I was into language.

2. If you could have another career, what would it be?

I never saw myself in healthcare because I was never good with blood… [laughs] I didn’t know all the levels of careers that were involved in healthcare, but I always knew I wanted to do something to help people.

My college degree was in International Relations. My goal was always to give back.

I love where I ended up, but if I could do anything differently, I would do something focused on women. Not only here in the US, but in other countries where we could empower them and help them to make lives their own. Maybe I could do this as a volunteer in my retirement. I’m very happy here!

3. What’s your prized possession?

I have two things. One is my great-grandmother’s journal from the late 1800s. It’s just priceless, you read it and it’s just… wow.

The other one is also a diary. I was born in Mexico, but my lineage is German and French. My great-grandfather was German and was an architect/engineer. He’s quite famous in Mexico, actually. There is a statue of him! His homes are historic. You can’t tear them down or change them in any way. Mexico has been hit with earthquakes over the years and none of his houses fell. They’re amazing. Another thing he is very famous for is that he brought the first flushable toilet to Mexico, which is very funny actually.

I remember him when I was a child. He was very strict. [laughs] The diary is from his ancestors and it is dated back to 1786. This diary is hand-written in really, really old German. I just wish I could have it translated to know what it says. It may say nothing, I don’t know!!

4. What’s the next thing on your to-do list?

Right now, it’s continuing to schedule our Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking patients for the vaccine. We started doing it last week. It’s non-stop. With this new surge, unfortunately, it was our immigrant communities that got hit the hardest.

We get call lists and now the community knows to call us. Our team learned to schedule in Epic in literally 30 minutes. It was great.

Right now, I’m also learning how to make Epic reports. I love data, but don’t say that too loud, I’ll get put onto other things!

5. What are you putting off at the moment?

Personally, I am putting off travelling. Everyone is, but it’s been interesting that because of COVID restrictions, that loss of freedom, I’ve done a lot of things at home.

My basement is spotless. We did a huge yard project – a lot of manual work. It’s good, though.

6. What’s your hidden passion?

I actually love, love, love, learning about herbs. Learning how to use herbs, making my own oils.

We have one bottle of Motrin in the house. If someone is sick, the kids will say, “Oh, here comes mom with her herbs!” [laughs] But I’ve always loved learning about the environment and what nature could bring.

I’m also a Reiki master. It was along the same path as my interest in herbs and doing things more naturally. It’s not a profession or anything. It’s just for my personal life.

7. What do you keep an emergency supply of?

One of the things I always have is apple cider vinegar. I just looked down at the floor here and here’s my big bottle of it! It’s good for you. It’s considered a natural antibiotic.

When COVID hit last year and I knew I’d be out on the floor, I’d take a big swig of it!

8. What are you binge-watching?

I’ve been watching the Marvel movies. I’ve got kids, but they’re grown – they’re in college. They say, “Mom, you’ve gotta watch this!” and I got hooked on them – all the story lines and plots. I got involved with them because of the kids. My daughter and I also got hooked on Supernatural.

Recently I also loved The Queen’s Gambit. I’m not a chess player by any means, but it was amazing.

9. Name something you can’t do?

[No hesitation.] Sing. I love to sing. I love music with a passion – any type of music. My daughter plays piano and sings beautifully.

It’s funny, I think I can, but it’s quite painful. I’ll say to her, “Oh, I really can’t sing,” and she’ll say, “Oh, Momma that’s so true.”

10. What song is stuck in your head at the moment?

“I am” by Satsang. It’s just a new song – a reggae song. It’s on my mind since I heard it yesterday.