South Lake grad honored for medical Web site |

South Lake grad honored for medical Web site

William Ferchland
photo provided Zachary Child -- medical award

Past winners include students from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke.

Now include Zachary Child, a 31-year-old single parent, graduate of South Tahoe High School and third-year medical student at the University of Nevada.

Child’s Web site, which provides medical staff with questions in Spanish for ailing non-English speakers, won third-place for the Innovations in Health Promotion.

The award, given by the Department of Health and Human Services, is open to all health education students in the country.

With the distinction comes $1,500, a nice line on the résumé and a June 7 ceremony in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson.

Child believes it might be the first time someone in Nevada received the award. A certificate from Gov. Kenny Guinn congratulated him on the accomplishment.

They are all fringe benefits. Child says he made the Web site to help comrades in the health profession assess Spanish speakers with specific questions answered by a simple yes or no. The translations can be downloaded to electronic organizers like Palm Pilots and iPods.

“Everyone in emergency medicine has this problem and it’s all across the country,” he said.

In most hospitals, translators are front-desk clerks, cleaning personnel or family members, Child said. When he worked as a paramedic in Washoe County, Child found it difficult trying to ask injured Spanish speakers specific questions.

So one summer, when other medical students did research and “killed rats,” Child stumbled through building the Web site. He had help from friends and Darren Griswald in the foreign language department at University of Reno assisted with the correct dialect.

Child didn’t have the childhood dream of becoming a doctor. “I spent the first 18 years of my life ripping moguls,” he said.

Before he turned 20, Child wanted to become an artist. His mother, Gina, said he was accepted to the Academy of Arts in San Francisco when he learned he would be a father.

So the longhaired kid from South Tahoe High School instead followed in his father’s and brother’s footsteps by joining the fire department. Child worked in Reno, while his father, Bob, worked at Tahoe Douglas Fire Department and his brother, Justin, worked for Lake Valley Fire Department.

He spent nine years as a paramedic, working part-time while he pursued his undergraduate degree in philosophy from UNR. Medical school was a natural extension of his work in emergency services.

“Nothing ruffles him,” Gina said. “He has the coolest demeanor of anyone I know. He’s amazing to me. I don’t know what to say. I’m a mother. I’m supposed to say these things.”

Child hopes his award will garner attention to his Web site.

“Other than being a little ambitious about things, I’ve never had a huge definitive direction in my life,” he said. “I want to raise my kid and make him turn out great and keep having fun. I also want to do good things. You want to make yourself proud more than anybody.”

Child’s Web site can be located at

– E-mail William Ferchland at

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