Former Colombian military doctor finds joy speaking patients’ language

Oct. 29, 2021
Diana Feria-Montes

With an eye for detail honed as a physician, Diana Feria-Montes quickly dives into medical texts and websites when assigned a patient at UCHealth Memorial Hospital.

Studying helps Feria-Montes prepare for her job interpreting complex medical diagnoses for a patient or family members with accuracy and compassion. At the same time, she’s satisfying her quest for new medical knowledge, one developed as a medical student and family practice physician in her native Colombia.

“Learning is one of my favorite parts of my job,” Feria-Montes said. “The complexity of health care and the difficulty of cases we have is why I wanted to work at Memorial. I want to help people who are like me.”

“Like me,” refers to the challenges faced by Spanish-speaking immigrants, often from Central and South America. It’s the position Feria-Montes found herself  in 18 years ago after she fled Colombia following death threats connected to her job as a civilian physician for the Colombian Army. She cared for leftist guerrilla soldiers following their surrender.

“I know what it’s like to change your country, leave your family and completely change your environment,” Feria-Montes said. “I once was where they are now. I know what they’re feeling.”

After immigrating to Colorado Springs under political asylum rules and facing the challenge of the language barrier, Feria-Montes worked as a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home. She remembers her first day on the job and asking “would you like breakfast?”

“My English skills were too basic so I needed to start working with Americans and acquire the new language,” she said.

As she gained command of the language and earned U.S. citizenship, she moved to medical assistant, care coordination positions and registered nurse care management positions with a local health system that serves low-income individuals. She joined UCHealth four years ago. From 2 to 10 p.m., she serves as the go-between for patients and providers, bouncing between departments such as oncology, surgery, neurology and serving as an on-call resource for emergencies.

“To be able to see patients from their initial diagnosis and to follow them through treatment journey brings me joy,” Feria-Montes said. “The care we provide here is amazing. I’m glad to be part of it.”

About the author

Tom Hutton is a veteran communications professional who enjoys making complex subjects relatable to people from all walks of life. Prior to joining UCHealth in 2019, he taught and led public communications at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Previously, he led communications at the University of Kansas and was a reporter and manager for newspapers in Kansas, Iowa and California. In these roles, he earned recognition from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the University of Colorado and various press associations.

Tom earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from KU and a master’s degree in public administration from CU. He enjoys college sports, vintage cars, cooking Kansas City-style barbeques, skiing and hiking.

He and his wife Julie have two daughters and a son.