Healthcare without language barriers: together, we can make it possible

Welcome! Proposed in 2006 and established in 2007, we are UC Berkeley's Volunteer Health Interpreters Organization. We provide free health interpretation and translation services for low-English proficiency populations in the Bay Area.


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VHIO is a University of California, Berkeley undergraduate student-led organization whose roots trace back to 2007, when it was established as the San Francisco Hepatitis B Collaborative (SFHBC) in partnership with University of California, San Francisco health professional students. SFHBC at Berkeley provided trained bilingual students as Asian language interpreters for two monthly UCSF hepatitis B student-run clinics, which we continue to volunteer at.

Dedicated to helping to stop the spread of hepatitis B, SFHBC partnered with organizations such as the San Francisco Hepatitis B Free Campaign and helped at various screening, vaccination, and education events. Four hundred million people worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis B infection, which tragically can lead to liver cancer early in adult life. It is the 10th leading etiologic cause of death in the world. Fortunately, the spread of the hepatitis B virus is preventable with a simple, safe, and effective vaccine.

Due to an increase in demand for interpretation services, we have been expanding to provide interpretation and volunteering services for a broader range of issues beyond hepatitis B. In August 2010, SFHBC at Berkeley was renamed the Volunteer Health Interpreters Organization (VHIO) to reflect its expanded scope of language capacities and its service base across the San Francisco Bay Area.

Committed to outreach, we are continually establishing new partnerships and volunteering opportunities.

The Importance of Healthcare Interpretation

Due to convenience, family members and other ad hoc interpreters (friends, untrained medical and nonmedical staff, sometimes children and even strangers) help with interpretation in healthcare settings. Unfortunately, patients frequently report that they do not completely understand diagnoses and treatment when proper interpretation is not available. Errors in translation include omissions, additions, and false fluency; these can result in clinical consequences. There are many medical malpractice cases involving language barriers.

Many LEP patients do not have access to medical interpreters when they need the service. According to one study, no interpreter was used in 46% of the emergency room cases involving LEP individuals. Few clinicians receive training in working with interpreters; only 23% of U.S. teaching hospitals provide any such training, and most of these make it optional.

Good medical interpreters help patients communicate with medical staff. They are familiar with the languages they interpret for, including technical concepts and vocabulary. In addition, they show cultural sensitivity and act as a cultural buffer in facilitating communication.


The San Francisco County and Alameda County have a high concentration of LEP populations that speak a primary language other than English (44% and 41%) compared with the US average (20%). The San Francisco Bay Area has a long history of language rights advocacy, but there remain gaps in providing language access to LEP populations especially in safety net facilities or community educations and preventions. VHIO was established to fill this gap in interpretation services in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You can direct your inquiries to If you wish to contact a particular officer, you may reference that in the title of the email and we will get back to you.

To contact a particular department...

Education (DeCal)

2017-2018 VHIO Officers

Shirley Shao 

Director of External Affairs

Jia Zhen & Zeyi Zhou
Chinese Department Coordinators

Jenna Do & Hyewon Yoon
Korean Department Coordinators

Elizabeth Montes & Shaili Patel
Spanish Department Coordinators

Tracie Luong & Nhan Dang 
Vietnamese Department Coordinators

Liselle Guiang and Carmel Malvar
Tagalog Department Coordinators

Izumi Shimanouchi and Shi Jia Zhou
Japanese Department Coordinators

Jen Tan
Outreach Coordinator

Sheryl Zhang
Director of Internal Affairs 

Chaerim Lee & Frank Qi
Education Coordinators

Jarita Lee & Van Nguyen
Professional Development Coordinators

Nghi Tran
Finance Coordinator

Llyke Ching
Program Analyst

May Liu
Publicity Coordinator

With thanks to...
Winston Tseng, PhD
Faculty Adviser

Interpreting for medical appointments at clinics
Interpreting at health fairs or screening events

If you have a medical appointment or are attending a screening event elsewhere, you may contact us to request an interpreter to accompany you to your appointment.

Translating healthcare-related documents

We keep your medical information confidential.

Providing health educational workshops

We host informational sessions about health topics at local community centers and sites. For information about our workshops

see here