How We Started ATI

Dedicated to teaching people about translation and interpreting, Arizona Translators and Interpreters began as a working group associated with the Maricopa County Medical Interpreter Project. In its first year, this collaborative group sponsored two conferences keynoted by national experts (November 2003 and February 2004). Interpreters from medical, paramedic, and police settings joined with interpreters from legal, educational, commerce, religious, and other settings to learn from each other and improve access to language services. When the group incorporated in 2004, the name changed from Arizona Interpreters and Translators Association to Arizona Translators and Interpreters. ATI connected language professionals, held workshops and meetings, produced a quarterly newsletter, and created CLIC, an online Community Language Information Clearinghouse. People could CLIC to find translators, interpreters, and information about evaluating and hiring language professionals.


  • 1999
    • Gricelda Zamora dies in Arizona at the age of thirteen. Suffering from a ruptured appendix, Gricelda serves as her parents’ interpreter during her own illness, misdiagnosis, and death. A lawsuit is brought against the hospital. A lack of interpreter services is cited as a factor contributing to her wrongful death.
  • 2000
    • St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI) grants $250,000 to University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital to create the three-year Maricopa County Medical Interpreter Project (MCMIP). The goal of the project is to increase the quality and quantity of interpreters available in health care. Monthly task force meetings include twenty-seven health care organizations, as well as representatives from community colleges and universities. Building on the Spanish Bilingual Assistant curriculum initiated at Maricopa Integrated Health System, MCMIP creates additional curricula, teaches interpreters, trains trainers, works with SLHI to create a policy primer, and engages stakeholders at every level. The pool of instructors qualified to teach interpreters grows from two to thirty-three. By the end of the three-year period, over 900 people in Arizona participate in the sixty-hour interpreter training. MCMIP goes on to become the national Medical Interpreter Project with funding from Ronald McDonald House Charities and trains trainers nationally for five more years. Hundreds of local interpreters in languages of lesser diffusion receive training as well. Over a ten-year period, from 2000 to 2010, the quality of language services in multiple languages is improved across the country, with an annual national impact on hundreds of thousands of interpreter encounters.
  • 2003
    • MCMIP convenes a national roundtable of experts to hold ongoing conversations about core competencies and best practices for interpreters in health care. The national group strongly recommends creating a more supportive local environment for working interpreters, including articulation of the Spanish Bilingual Assistant class with Arizona’s colleges and universities and creation of an association for translators and interpreters. An association is seen as a mechanism for sustainability of MCMIP, allowing the project to end and the translators and interpreters to pick up the work. The outcomes of the national roundtable include a vetted list of core competencies for interpreters in health care, improved training and testing for interpreters and trainers, the creation of a confidence scale and test of knowledge to measure interpreter progress pre- and post training, and work to establish Arizona Translators and Interpreters, Inc.
  • 2004
    • Arizona Translators and Interpreter incorporates as a not-for-profit Arizona corporation. The mission statement, “We teach people about translation and interpreting,” reflects the educational emphasis of the organization. Partnering with the Arizona Court Interpreters Association, the first annual conference is held at Estrella Mountain Community College.Speakers include four national experts. The sold-out event, attended by 120 people, leads to a successful effort to start interpreter training in community colleges in Arizona.