Saturday, September 22, 2012
Cardiologist has heart for learning languages, shares knowledge in Spanish-speaking world
By Allison Elliott and Abby Shields
University of Kentucky
For University of Kentucky Gill Heart Institute physician Dr. Thomas F. Whayne, a high school Spanish class led to an exciting bilingual academic and clinical career.
While in high school, Whayne took two years of Spanish. Displaying an aptitude for languages, he placed into advanced Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Thomas F. Whayne (Photo from UKNow)
Following a long career, spanning academic research to two decades in private clinical practice, Whayne decided in 1990, at the age of 53, to begin to study Spanish again. He looked up the UK Department of Hispanic Studies, and partnered with a series of graduate students, all native Spanish speakers, as Spanish language conversation partners. He has also studied specialized Spanish medical vocabulary and has had the benefit of having native Spanish speakers as his mentors.
“In 2007 it was a moment of inspiration to study Spanish that led me to call the UK Spanish department to arrange a tutor who turned out to be a graduate student from Chile working on his doctorate in Spanish,” said Whayne.
Today, Whayne has been active in the study of Spanish for more than 22 years. He reads literature in Spanish, saying Don Quijote is “one of the greatest books ever written,” and has traveled extensively in Spanish-speaking countries. Perhaps most impressive, though, has been Whayne’s extension of his academic career into Spanish language papers and presentations. To date, he has authored 16 academic articles in Spanish, and has presented 68 medical lectures in Spanish in Spanish-speaking countries. He also serves as editor asociado-extranjero of the journal Revista Costarricense de Cardiologia.
“My favorite thing about the Spanish language is its beauty and rhythm when spoken,” said Whayne.
In 2007, Whayne was named a member of the UK graduate faculty in Hispanic Studies, and was named an honorary inductee to the Sigma Delta Pi Honorary Society for Spanish at UK in 1998.
Whayne, who was born in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, earned his undergraduate degree and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).
He served as an intern, then resident, at The New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship with the U. S. Public Health Service at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. He also served as an American Heart Association Advanced Research Fellow at UCSF, and held the same position at the University of Toronto. He also served in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Whayne, who has in the past been involved in clinical trials and basic science research, today maintains a clinical practice, while writing articles and presenting lectures in both English and Spanish.
“There is no question in my mind that the brain needs exercise just like the rest of the body and the study of languages is an incredible exercise in mental fluency, memory and rapid thinking outside of your usual normality,” Whayne said.