How this CNM Student is Using American Sign Language to Advance Her Medical Degree
Andrea signing "friends"

How this CNM Student is Using American Sign Language to Advance Her Medical Degree

Andrea Chavez is pursuing both a Respiratory Therapy degree and ASL certificate so she can serve more patients
February 20, 2024

Respiratory Therapy (RT) and American Sign Language (ASL) don’t seem to have much in common. But that hasn’t stopped Andrea Chavez from finding a way to put them together.

She’s currently studying both at CNM and knows she’ll find unique ways to have one compliment the other.

“Having ASL in my tool belt is only going to make me a better respiratory therapist in the future,” she explains. “Being able to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing patients and their families will not only help me provide better care, but will also ensure my patients and their families feel welcomed and safe.” 

Andrea started at CNM in RT but came across ASL when she was fulfilling a humanities requirement. 

“It didn’t take me long to fall in love with ASL and the community I found in my ASL classes,” she says. “It’s also incredibly empowering to know that I can have a conversation with deaf or hard of hearing folks not just in the classroom, but also in a hospital setting.” 

Andrea enrolled in CNM as an adult learner and was nervous to come back. But it didn’t long for her to find her footing. She credits her success to the ASL classes.

“I’m generally a pretty shy person, but taking the leap and learning ASL really helped bring me out of my shell,” she says. All of my classmates were there for different reasons, but we were all committed to helping each other learn and my confidence has only grown since.” ASLClub.jpg

Along with her normal coursework and respiratory therapy clinical hours, Andrea is also the Vice President of CNM’s ASL Club

The club is open to all CNM students, as well as UNM students and community members, with the goal of providing extracurricular activities and real-world learning opportunities. 

“Last term we went to the zoo as a club and we have plans to do more things like that this term,” Andrea says. “It’s also a great space to practice your ASL even if you aren’t enrolled in a class. Everyones is welcome and we are always excited when new people join us!”

As she continues to work towards her Respiratory Therapy degree and ASL certification, Andrea is thankful for the welcoming and encouraging environment she found at CNM. 

“I’ve realized that it’s never too late to go after what you want, and CNM helped me find not just one, but two passions that I’m now turning into a career,” she says. “I’m so thankful that I took the chance to go back to school, especially at a place that is committed to helping you grow and find a path that you love.”