Team coordinates medical care, translation services and more for international patients

UCLA Health article
(From left) Susana Morales, Shereen Gerges and Audrey Martinelli Rodriguez strive to be a one-stop shop for international patients
(From left) Susana Morales, Shereen Gerges and Audrey Martinelli Rodriguez strive to be a one-stop shop for international patients

Story Highlights

  • International Services manages medical care for patients from more than 140 countries.
  • Care coordinators help with translation services, appointment scheduling, and they serve as a support system for patients who are far from home
  • Staff with international backgrounds combine their knowledge of CICARE and cultural sensitivities to bridge the gap between patientsand providers.

UCLA Health has a worldwide reputation for providing advanced diagnostic services and treatments for complex health conditions. It is this reputation that each year brings nearly 3,000 international patients here from more than 140 countries for medical care. Care coordinators and finance specialists who work in UCLA Health International Services help these patients navigate the often confusing and complicated American health care system.

“Our international patients are anxious about coming into a country that is foreign in not only language, but also cultural differences,” says care coordinator Susana Morales. “For some of our patients facing life-threatening illnesses, coming to UCLA is their last hope. Many patients are not able to obtain a promising treatment — or any treatment at all — in their home countries.”

Care coordinators spend a lot of time with patients on the phone prior to their journey to Los Angeles. They review each patient’s unique medical information and work with UCLA Health providers to ensure it is in the patient’s best interests to come to UCLA. If a trip is warranted, care coordinators work with providers to develop a comprehensive plan that makes the best use of the patient’s time while they are here.

“We connect patients with appropriate physicians via teleconsultations, arrange for translation services as needed and serve as the patient’s advocate,” says care coordinator Shereen Gerges, who is fluent in Arabic and works with many patients from the Middle East, as well as from other countries. Care coordinators also are the point of contact for UCLA Health physicians while the patient is under their care. Care coordinators relay information between provider and patients and attend appointments with patients when needed.

Financial specialists within the department help streamline the payment process. “Even Americans sometimes struggle to understand all of the nuances of the health care system,” says Audrey Martinelli Rodriguez, finance specialist, International Services. “We strive to be a one-stop shop for international patients to guide them through the entire process of receiving care from beginning to end.”

To learn more about International Services, visit: