A study published in JAMA in November revealed that the percentage of U.S. medical students who disclosed their disability to their schools has risen dramatically over the last three years (1). In 2016, only about 2.7% of medical students disclosed their disabilities, whereas in 2019, roughly 4.6% of them did (2).
The survey noted that the increases in disclosures occurred in students with chronic health conditions and psychological disabilities, such as depression and anxiety (2). These disabilities are not often visible in the same way physical disabilities might be.
Why the jump in disability disclosures?
It is thought that the increase in disclosures of disabilities in the medical school community has resulted from an increase in accommodations offered, and an increased knowledge of these accommodations (1,2). The researchers found that when students disclosed their disabilities to their medical schools, the schools almost always made accommodations for them. In turn, prospective students with disabilities could see these accommodations in action and feel more comfortable disclosing their own disabilities.
Accommodations made by medical schools for students with disabilities include things like:
- Extended testing time
- Note takers
- Adjustments to tests of clinical skills
Often, even when the schools couldn’t tweak clinical competency tests required for graduation, they were able to deliver tests in an environment that could better serve the student’s needs.
What does this study mean?
This increase in disclosures shows improvements in disability inclusion at medical schools across the country. Such improvements will encourage existing medical students with disabilities to disclose if they have not already, while also encouraging prospective medical students with disabilities to pursue their goals moving forward.
Furthermore, the increase in numbers of medical students with disabilities means an increase in medical professionals with disabilities. There are manifold benefits to having more doctors with disabilities, some of which include (2,3):
- Improved patient care with unique perspectives
- New understanding of accessibility and possible scientific innovations
- Assistance in removing obstacles for patients with disabilities
Read more about why we need more doctors with disabilities here.
The University of Michigan’s role
Dr. Lisa Meeks of the University of Michigan helped publish the study on increased disclosure of disabilities in the medical school community. She is passionate about the inclusion of students with disabilities, a quality which reflects the goals of her institution considerably (2).
The University of Michigan Medical School associate dean for medical student education Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, told the school’s lab blog, “We are beginning to move the needle on understanding the lived experience for our medical students who have both apparent and non-apparent disabilities”(2). As proof of this claim, U of M has made a commitment to accommodate all students with disabilities.
Of course, even at U of M, where the school is focused on disability inclusion as one of its main priorities, there can always be improvements. The dean notes that “far more work is required for us to build the culture for these students to thrive and develop; all for the betterment of their future patients” (2). After all, it’s easy to see how a diverse population of doctors can better serve a diverse population of patients.
About ABC Law Centers
ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
If a birth injury/subsequent disability could have been prevented with proper care, then it constitutes medical malpractice. Settlements from birth injury cases can cover the costs of lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources.
If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to talk to you free of any obligation or charge. In fact, clients pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win.
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- Meeks, L. M. (2019, November 26). Change in Prevalence of Disabilities and Accommodation Practices Among US Medical Schools, 2016 vs 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2756168.
- Gavin, K. (2019, November 27). More Medical Students Are Disclosing Their Disabilities, and Schools Are Responding, Study Finds. Retrieved December 27, 2019, from https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/med-u/more-medical-students-are-disclosing-their-disabilities-and-schools-are-responding-study.
- ABC Law Centers. (2018, July 9). How Doctors with Disabilities Improve Patient Care. Retrieved December 27, 2019, from https://www.abclawcenters.com/blog/2018/03/30/how-doctors-with-disabilities-improve-patient-care/.