I am a physically disabled (successful) applicant in my 30s...ask me anything

samc

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Hello!

As this cycle winds down (for me), and I prepare to stop posting on this account, I thought I would see if there are any questions. The advice and information I got, in this long and arduous process, came from the following sources:

(1) Non-disabled people who had no direct contact with disabled med students/MDs

(2) Non-disabled people who had met/heard of a disabled med student/MD, but did not know how to advise me

(3) Disabled people who were successful, but (seemingly) had everything go off without a hitch​

So I thought I'd go on the record--because there's not much info out there.

In brief, I have a set of relatively uncommon congenital physical disabilities. They are easily visible! Congenital means I was born this way. For this reason, the "overcoming obstacles" narrative doesn't really work for me. ("It was then I realized that I would be living out my life exactly as samc has from day one...but with support from my family and friends, I have prevailed over the great adversity of being...exactly like samc...and I am stronger for it.")

My problems look really bad for medicine, but in reality, they have only a minimal impact on my daily life. So, too, do I anticipate needing only minimal accommodations during med school and residency.

Obviously, I will not answer specific questions about specific schools, and I need to keep the discussion professional, but go for it. You are also welcome to PM me.

Happy New Year!
 

Goro

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Years ago, at the hospital I worked at, there was a nephrologist/oncologist who has a congenitally withered arm.

At the same place I knew a pediatric oncologist who had a grand mal, world class stutter.

Didn't stop either one of them.

Hello!

As this cycle winds down (for me), and I prepare to stop posting on this account, I thought I would see if there are any questions. The advice and information I got, in this long and arduous process, came from the following sources:

(1) Non-disabled people who had no direct contact with disabled med students/MDs

(2) Non-disabled people who had met/heard of a disabled med student/MD, but did not know how to advise me

(3) Disabled people who were successful, but (seemingly) had everything go off without a hitch​

So I thought I'd go on the record--because there's not much info out there.

In brief, I have a set of relatively uncommon congenital physical disabilities. They are easily visible! Congenital means I was born this way. For this reason, the "overcoming obstacles" narrative doesn't really work for me. ("It was then I realized that I would be living out my life exactly as samc has from day one...but with support from my family and friends, I have prevailed over the great adversity of being...exactly like samc...and I am stronger for it.")

My problems look really bad for medicine, but in reality, they have only a minimal impact on my daily life. So, too, do I anticipate needing only minimal accommodations during med school and residency.

Obviously, I will not answer specific questions about specific schools, and I need to keep the discussion professional, but go for it. You are also welcome to PM me.

Happy New Year!
 
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Amygdarya

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samc, I don't really have any questions - at least, not at the moment - I just stopped by to congratulate you with your success. Getting into medical school is not easy for anyone, and it is an even more impressive achievement for people in special situations.

An inspiring story I was reminded of.
 
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samc

samc

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Well, the linked article makes me think (as I have been rolling it around in my brain these past few years). Is it better to have articles written about me, when I get approached in the coming years? Or is it better to keep quiet and lead by example, keeping the focus on my work? I tend toward the latter.

My hope is that someday it will be embarrassing for a med school not to have physically disabled people in evidence, just as today it would be embarrassing (unacceptable) for a school not to have URM students.

But whether this is to be accomplished by organizing and publicity, or by one-on-one outreach to individual disabled undergrads and high schoolers, I do not know. Again, I tend toward the latter approach, but that's me.
 

BlackBox

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Well, the linked article makes me think (as I have been rolling it around in my brain these past few years). Is it better to have articles written about me, when I get approached in the coming years? Or is it better to keep quiet and lead by example, keeping the focus on my work? I tend toward the latter.

My hope is that someday it will be embarrassing for a med school not to have physically disabled people in evidence, just as today it would be embarrassing (unacceptable) for a school not to have URM students.

But whether this is to be accomplished by organizing and publicity, or by one-on-one outreach to individual disabled undergrads and high schoolers, I do not know. Again, I tend toward the latter approach, but that's me.

Good points. However, in order to achieve the desired acceptance of people with disabilities in medical school (can't even believe I just wrote that), publicity is key- the more often people with disabilities are seen in medicine, the more common it becomes...until it's, well, typical. This may mean those successes, such as yourself, will have to take a more public role.

GL
 

vc7777

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Congratulations! I'm a wee bit disappointed you have decided to retire this account - as I think you can offer a lot to this community - as you clearly point out there is not many role models. Even a yearly "check in" could be inspiring. For every member there are probably ten lurkers - so keep that in mind.

Also anecdotally my small med school faculty include: one severe congenital limb deformity, one wheelchair bound, one legally blind (congenitally I think but none of my beeswax), and one deaf/severely hard of hearing. One (truly amazing) psychologist, the rest MDs. All of them strong clinicians.

Sent from my Galaxy Note 3
 
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alpinism

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An inspiring story I was reminded of.
:thumbup:

Congratulations! I'm a wee bit disappointed you have decided to retire this account - as I think you can offer a lot to this community - as you clearly point out there is not many role models. Even a yearly "check in" could be inspiring. For every member there are probably ten lurkers - so keep that in mind.
Agreed.
 

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Please answer as many or as few as you like:

1. How did you deal with differential treatment, if you had to? Or (another way to ask this), do you have any advice for people with disabilities regarding how they handle any kind of differential treatment?

2. If you were on disability (SSDI), how did ADCOMs react to that if they knew? Did they assume that you were incapable of everything at first?

3. Did you ever struggle to obtain or keep your accommodations (no need to answer unless you want to)? Or, more importantly, do you have experience-based tips for disabled students who do (struggle to keep or obtain accommodations from the school) in the future?

(I mean anything from "keep your head up" to specific tips. I am aware that sometimes people either resent accommodated people or consider another person's accommodation to be an inconvenience. For example, if someone is booted out of a front row seat because a disabled person needs that spot or if an entire class has to sit in a less desirable classroom to accommodate a disabled classmate, some people might fight the accommodation, or suggest alternate "accommodations" that don't suit the disabled person's needs.)

4. Would you comment on disabilities and LoRs (for residency or medical school)? Do you think there's a need to be concerned that someone (like a professor or committee) would be hesitant to recommend you or anyone because they are "disabled?" Do you have suggestions for handling that?

(A story to illustrate what my question is about: I'm aware of a situation, not in the medical field, where someone was disabled, and there were rumors that she couldn't do anything, including things unrelated to her disability. No one would ask about it because they were afraid that asking would be breaking the law or company policies. This real or imagined requirement not to talk about her situation was IMO similar to having an odd giant pink elephant statue in middle of an otherwise corporate room, totally awkward, that no one could mention. She must of had a difficult time getting references.)

5. How did you deal with rumors about your disability if you had to? Or (another way of asking), do you have any suggestions about how people should deal with rumors about their disability? For example, coordination disorders can result in rumors that the sufferer is a drunk. Another example is below, if you want it.

(A made up example based on a real situation (why I'm asking): I think it's common for mean people to make up whole false stories about other people's medical conditions, especially visible medical conditions that stand out in some way. This is bad because when many people encounter someone with something like, tartar dyskinesia (what Michael J. Fox has), instead of asking say Michael why he moves that way, they would start asking people in his environment. If no one knows the truth, then someone will eventually MAKE UP a story, sometimes a nasty one if they don't the other person or are "playing dirty" in a competition of some sort (promotion, girlfriend, etc.).
 
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samc

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1. How did you deal with differential treatment, if you had to? Or (another way to ask this), do you have any advice for people with disabilities regarding how they handle any kind of differential treatment?
Well, I haven't started school yet, so we'll see. But nonetheless--this is one of the reasons I have left my MDApps up, so that prospectives can see what it might take--I can't help but think that my 100% full disclosure of everything that ails me, from the AMCAS forward, affected my interview yield (number of invites per secondaries complete). I am not saying that Harvard and Yale should be fighting over me, but I can't help but think I would otherwise have gotten more interviews from mid-tier schools. The rest of my dossier is strong. I would even say that the public service chunk of my file can compete with any applicant. 8 interviews is great, but for, what, 41 completed apps? So that's how I dealt, based on last year's results. I applied very, very widely.

As for preempting "differential treatment," I announced straight up, in every single interview, that I want a school where the faculty is behind me. I don't expect, as I said to the interviewers, that every single human at your institution should be thrilled about disabled people in medicine. People disagree. But in the main, I want the faculty behind me, and if I can't find such a program, I'll go back to the lab, or I'll go and practice law.

In my "regular" life I have not been in situations in which differential treatment could gain too much of a foothold. Was dating interesting? Sure. Was middle school phys. ed. interesting? Sure. But before this career switch to medicine, my disabilities were a matter for other people's private opinions and my own cocktail party chitchat (and private struggles). This is the first time disability has intruded into my professional life.

2. If you were on disability (SSDI), how did ADCOMs react to that if they knew? Did they assume that you were incapable of everything at first?
I have never been on SSDI. Though I do have experience advocating for my clients (in social services) to receive other public benefits, I am not an expert in SSDI. My general impression is that it is for people who are unable to enter the regular job market and work a standard job. Again in general, I suspect that this "level" of disability would make a medical career difficult, even with accommodations. With this in mind, though I personally disclosed every single factoid, I would not have mentioned SSDI had it applied to me. One would have to have a hell of a volunteer or literary CV to make up for a missing conventional work history. (Edited to add: as a former humanities person, I mean "literary CV" seriously, not derisively. Let's say there was an SSDI recipient who was able to cast herself as a freelance science writer who hadn't needed to work for a living.)

3. Did you ever struggle to obtain or keep your accommodations (no need to answer unless you want to)? Or, more importantly, do you have experience-based tips for disabled students who do (struggle to keep or obtain accommodations from the school) in the future?
Yes. I do have experience-based tips from my sojourn in a nurse practitioner program. (As Moses sojourned in Midian.) I can answer specific questions over PM for anyone who needs to know. The most diplomatic thing to say about this struggle was that disability was only one of many qualities that made me ill-suited for advanced practice nursing.

Here's one anecdote for the public record, not from nursing school, but from college, ca. 1995-96. (I guess enough water has gone under the bridge since then!) I started college, only 5 years after the ADA was passed, with zero accommodations, and I did not register with the disabilities office, never having done so before. Over the course of the semester, I realized that I needed a piece of equipment in the dorm, something that is found in every U.S. household, but generally not in dorms, costing in the hundreds, not the thousands, of dollars. "Roughing it" and doing without was really wearing on me, and what's more, it wasn't safe.

When I went to my administrative superiors, I encountered a shocking amount of hostility in re: this request. Why had I tried to tough it out? Didn't that mean that I really didn't need the requested accommodation? Wasn't this just a matter of convenience? At length, I prevailed, but this struggle greatly damaged my relationship with the administrators involved. Later in college, when I needed other non-disability-related assistance from them on routine but important matters, I found that my papers were often mislaid. I had to pull strings and get faculty to make calls just to address standard bureaucratic issues, stuff like transcripts.

Moral of the story: get your paperwork in order first and THEN enter a collegial relationship.

IMHO, the problem wasn't that I was disabled...the problem was that I dared to function in the grey area between disabled and non-disabled. A person who starts off on the rolls of the Disabilities Office, volunteers there, is an inspiration and a credit to the institution, great material for a PR piece. A person who is old enough to remember life before the ADA, who is used to making do--my own father donated money to anti-ADA lobbying groups, fearing that crippled people would soon be taking over his contracting firm--this person is an anomaly and a thorn in the side. Don't be an anomaly.

4. Would you comment on disabilities and LoRs (for residency or medical school)? Do you think there's a need to be concerned that someone (like a professor or committee) would be hesitant to recommend you or anyone because they are "disabled?" Do you have suggestions for handling that?
I plan to handle the residency LoRs just by being better than everyone else in the clinical sphere. This is humor. No, of course I don't literally mean that I will be better...I mean that I have no choice but to be a lot more than solid. Otherwise there is no way in hell I will match. In nursing school, I learned to start IVs by liberating a bunch of kits and practicing on myself. They could say a lot about ol' samc, but they couldn't criticize my IV technique. The same will have to be true here. I have no choice.

I did forego the committee letter at my postbaccalaureate institution precisely because I didn't know those people and had no clue what they would say about my problems. Not everyone is in a position to dis the committee letter. I did go to an Ivy League school for undergrad and had a close mentoring relationship with my major advisor, who of course gave me a letter. This gave me some socio-intellectual capital, so to speak, to brush off the postbac committee. People can say I worked too much during prereqs, got too many Bs, but no one can say, looking at my file, that I can't get the job done intellectually. Not everyone has this privilege. If I had been compelled to go for the committee letter, I would have been rolling the dice, because there is no guarantee about what actually goes down on paper.

Regarding my faculty letters, I had some help from my lab PI. Our lab has theoretical and wet lab divisions. I was hired to do theoretical work. After last year's unsuccessful cycle, he put me on a physically demanding wet lab project so that he could comment on my physical abilities. (We decided this in advance.)

5. How did you deal with rumors about your disability if you had to? Or (another way of asking), do you have any suggestions about how people should deal with rumors about their disability? For example, coordination disorders can result in rumors that the sufferer is a drunk.
When this has, on occasion, happened, I have usually confronted the rumor-starter directly. I'd rather be unpopular than, in your example above, be taken for a drunk. Over the years I have gotten a LITTLE bit more suave in my approach, but I do anticipate having to bite my tongue a lot in hospital (and other) politics.
 
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samc

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Congratulations! I'm a wee bit disappointed you have decided to retire this account - as I think you can offer a lot to this community - as you clearly point out there is not many role models. Even a yearly "check in" could be inspiring. For every member there are probably ten lurkers - so keep that in mind.
Thank you for the nod. Well, I do plan to keep this account and/or my MDApps open so that people in need can find and/or message me. But just like everyone else, I am in the process of locking down my social media identity in preparation for the professional jump.

In the long(er) term, though my views may change, I do not think that I am the right person to be a Disabilities in Medicine Point Woman. I think this is for someone who is (a) younger, from the post-ADA generation. And also (b) more disabled. This may sound weird, but wait. Until now, disability has been a tiny part of my day-to-day life. I pray that once I finish residency, it will again become an interesting footnote. (What to me is a "tiny part" might to you be a major deal, but trust me.)

So, just for example, I find it hard to get excited about disabled people, as a group, choosing roles in pure research or radiology or psychiatry or even PM&R. (Should women only work in OB? Should people of color only be interested in primary care for the underserved, when they might be from 2-physician families themselves?) Because of my personal physical makeup and my own lived experience, I just don't like the notion that disabled people should be allowed to forego the basics of generalist training. To pick some common examples from technical standards, I think that physicians should be able to do CPR and "basic obstetric maneuvers." If I couldn't get a reasonable amount of utility out of my body, I would have stayed in my present lab and gotten a Ph.D. on the computational side. It might have been the more intellectually challenging choice, anyway, and maybe as big a contribution to medicine.

But that is all very nice for me. Because I can grit my teeth and be trained as a generalist. Someone whose disabilities have a more life-consuming impact may not be able to. And I do not want to throw cold water on their plans.

My hope is that someday I will be giving a massively boring talk on some other topic. People will wish they had never gone into medicine, because then they wouldn't be listening to it. Some half-asleep audience member will say to himself, "hey, check it out, SHE must be the disabled lady from such-and-such a school. I mean, look at her." Seriously, though, my research interests lie elsewhere.
 

vc7777

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Thank you for the nod. Well, I do plan to keep this account and/or my MDApps open so that people in need can find and/or message me. But just like everyone else, I am in the process of locking down my social media identity in preparation for the professional jump.
Good - let's not do rash things. ;)
In the long(er) term, though my views may change, I do not think that I am the right person to be a Disabilities in Medicine Point Woman. I think this is for someone who is (a) younger, from the post-ADA generation. And also (b) more disabled. This may sound weird, but wait. Until now, disability has been a tiny part of my day-to-day life. I pray that once I finish residency, it will again become an interesting footnote. (What to me is a "tiny part" might to you be a major deal, but trust me.)
But that is all very nice for me. Because I can grit my teeth and be trained as a generalist. Someone whose disabilities have a more life-consuming impact may not be able to. And I do not want to throw cold water on their plans.
Nobody said you would be the end-all-be-all or that you would even be the "Disabilities in Medicine Point Woman". I think most people are savvy enough to pick and choose aspects of multiple role-models for inspiration and motivation. You yourself enumerated how there was no perfect role model for you in your original post. So why should every disabled non-trad look to you either as the ultimate resource? But I can tell you have already thought about disabilities in medicine more than most (if not all) of our regular posters. Like you said - there isn't much (intelligent/informed) info out there. And data is data - and you are a datum. Besides - you are more than welcome to just contribute in anyway you want.

Every one of us has many, many facets to our lives and applications that cannot be summed up easily or placed neatly in this bin or that bin - that's why we are "non-traditionals". For the most part, all of us can be considered exceptions - age, GPA, background, teen-moms, former lawyers, nurses...etc.
My hope is that someday I will be giving a massively boring talk on some other topic. People will wish they had never gone into medicine, because then they wouldn't be listening to it. Some half-asleep audience member will say to himself, "hey, check it out, SHE must be the disabled lady from such-and-such a school. I mean, look at her." Seriously, though, my research interests lie elsewhere.
I look forward to the day I can annoyed and bored by you. Maybe I'll do the same in return. ;)
 
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Catalystik

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I do plan to keep this account and/or my MDApps open so that people in need can find and/or message me.
You represent diversity in medicine in several important ways. Thanks for keeping yourself available.
 
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samc

samc

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Hello! I thought I'd post a bit of an update. The way has been fairly smooth, I'm happy to report.

The worst disability-related thing to happen so far was when an outpatient clinical preceptor wrote me up for FAILING to ask for a chair. (Where's the <blink> tag?!) That's right. Under "Suggestions for Improvement," they wrote, "blah, blah, blah, samc did not ask me for a chair, which I could easily have provided. I would encourage samc to become an effective advocate for themselves." After seeking advice from two old, wise faculty members, one physically disabled, one not, I tried to discuss this with the preceptor. They became very nasty about it. I cried. Later they told me that "you would have been fired" for having this conversation, where, again, I did not yell or curse, only cried. It was extremely uncool, but fortunately I have no more to do with this preceptor. (I stand behind this on a barely-anonymous public forum...I want potential applicants to see both sides.)

Other interactions have been more benign. It's a drag to explain over and over that I do not need accommodations in anatomy lab, or that I was late because I ran late, not because my disability makes me slower(!!!!!!!!!). But this is not really harmful. I told my advisor that I was really nervous about accommodations during rotations, and they said, "But, samc, how can you say that, when we have Dr. So-and-So on staff?!" Dr. So-and-so has a disability 100% different from mine. This kind of thing. When I was younger, all this would have really gotten to me, but fortunately I've been around a little by now and can (mostly) laugh.

Basically, the problems so far have been because I'm not acting the way nondisabled people expect me to act. No hardcore malice.

I'm about to start rotations, and I got my (rather minimal) accommodations request approved. Much more important, I have been in touch with a couple of clerkship directors who have seen me work and are feeling good/unworried about having me in rotations.



_____________________________________________________________________________

(Links updated 3/23/2019 --samc)

I am always keeping my eye out for the right way to organize physically disabled medical trainees. There are some others in my program, but I gather that they are, understandably, just looking to fly under the radar and finish. (One disabled person matched in a non-sedentary specialty!) There are, however, some organizations that already exist.

Here's the Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities. I occasionally get an email from them on behalf of a member with a question for us.

AMPHL, the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses

Over in another thread I learned about the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education. This is a group of student affairs people and advocates, not students.

In the same vein, the AAMC has some resources (free and paid).

See also the Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities. USians are welcome...I emailed them to ask.

Or the Canadian Federation of Medical Students' page on Med Students with Disabilities.

Here's the U.K.'s HOPE for Disabled Doctors.

The British Medical Association has quite a bit of material on "reasonable adjustments."

Last but certainly not least, here is my list of schools that offered me an interview even with full disclosure on my AMCAS application, normal but not stellar numbers (3.55/35), and oldness (36 when applying). Add them to your list, even if you are out of state! This is no time to mess around! Do keep in mind that I had to apply twice, first to 27, then to 41 schools, to get these interviews, so cast a wide net. Good luck!

Albany
Oakland/William Beaumont
(did not attend interview, already had an offer)
Case Western
Cincinnati
(where I attended)
Cooper (my other admission offer)
Einstein
Rochester
(did not attend interview, already had an offer)
Rosalind Franklin (did not attend interview, already had an offer)
SUNY Buffalo (did not attend interview, already had an offer)
SUNY Stony Brook (withdrew right after interview)
SUNY Upstate
UTHSC San Antonio
 
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gamieg

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thanks for sharing :) this was lovely, and happy holidays!
 
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Bambifromnh

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How accommodating were they? Is there some room for let's say major medical issues while on the clock knowing that they are going to happen?
I have Ehlers Danlos and I am one of them that is very prone to dislocations. While for the most part I cam deal with them in under 5 minutes when it comes to some it turns into sedation and a relocation. Is that expecting to much? It almost seems like I would have to wrap myself in bubble wrap and be in a wheelchair to not have my medical issues cross over to work. They already do.
 
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samc

samc

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How accommodating were they? Is there some room for let's say major medical issues while on the clock knowing that they are going to happen?
I have Ehlers Danlos and I am one of them that is very prone to dislocations. While for the most part I cam deal with them in under 5 minutes when it comes to some it turns into sedation and a relocation. Is that expecting to much? It almost seems like I would have to wrap myself in bubble wrap and be in a wheelchair to not have my medical issues cross over to work. They already do.
Ow ow ow. Sorry to hear this. I have not actually started rotations yet...next week!...so I can't really comment intelligently. Would you like me to put you in touch with a friend of mine with EDS in med school?
 
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samc

samc

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(Fixed links 3/23/2019 --samc)

Here are some physically disabled trainees/MDs who have put their names in the public record and who were already disabled in medical school. There are many more physicians who, it seems, got a disability sometime in the course of practice.

Michael Ain (Albany)
Michael Argenyi (Creighton)
Tim Cordes (Madison)
Liebe Diamond (Johns Hopkins)
PDF of Journal of Hand Surgery article featuring Dr. Diamond's hands
(my main woman!)
Molly Fausone
Zachary Featherstone (PNWU COM)
David Hartman (Temple)
Kurt Herzer (Johns Hopkins)
Kelsey Kapolka (Cincinnati, Dayton)
Kellie Lim (UCLA)
Chris McCulloh (Case Western)
Woody Morgan (Tulane)
Amanda Mooneyham (UC Davis)
Karin Muraszko (Michigan)
James Post (THIS is the guy from Einstein!)
John Quinlan (Cincinnati)
Helen Taussig, a"h (Johns Hopkins)
Meghan Wilson (Pittsburgh, UC Irvine)

John Earl Wynands (McGill)
Philip Zazove (Michigan)

And here are some relevant SDN threads. I think there are older threads I can't find...try using keywords for specific conditions.

Missing fingers; Goro weighs in
Spondyloarthropathy; Goro again
Stroke-like symptoms; LizzyM and Goro
Stutter; IMPD and aProgDirector
SSDI; Confidential Consult
Limp; Goro was here
TBI; more Goro
Disabled veteran
Fatigue: Goro, aProgDirector
Myoelectric arm; Goro
Physical disability NOS
Lower limb; gyngyn speaks
Transverse myelitis; Goro, Catalystik
Hearing impairment; LizzyM
Arm problem; Goro
Autoimmune condition; Goro
Various
Orthopedic problems; Goro
Rheumatoid arthritis; aProgDirector
Quadriplegia; Johns Hopkins!
 
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Great thread! How did interviewers bring up (or not address) your disability? Did you tend to proactively bring it up first, or wait for them to ask you questions about it?
 
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samc

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Great thread! How did interviewers bring up (or not address) your disability? Did you tend to proactively bring it up first, or wait for them to ask you questions about it?
Every interview was different. Some highlights:

Some were MMI that didn't give me an opening to mention disability.
Some were MMI that did (believe it or not) let me mention it.

Most helpful of all: a couple of older attendings/administrators who were not afraid to tell me that motor skills, not mobility, is the committee's big concern. (I have a prosthetic leg and missing fingers. Life being what it is, my leg makes a lot more trouble for me than my hands, but it's OK, because the hands distract people from my real (though addressable) problem.)

I brought in the stuff and sewed on a button in a couple of interviews.

One person, rather nastily, said, "Well, we can ask about disability if you mention it in your essay" [I don't know if that's true --Ed.], but then refused to discuss it with me! I withdrew from that can of worms post-interview for a variety of reasons, but they sure didn't help to sell me on that school.

One person said, "Listen, samc, hang in there, I think you're going to get in somewhere. I don't know whether or not you'll get in here, but somewhere."

One surgeon said, "I really hope you get in here," and told me that the main obstacle, in his view, would be getting a special mold for this hand-controlled robot that they're using now. Otherwise he saw no problem, he said.

One person actively expressed his shock when I mentioned that I had an offer, but maybe he was just thinking of my extreme oldness. :)

I guess there must also have been a couple of places where it didn't come up.
 
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Thanks for writing this post, samc. You have a lot of valuable experiences and good information complied here. I hope your rotations are off to a strong start!

I have a physical disability which primarily impairs my mobility and I use crutches to walk (except for short distances across rooms). Despite a range of interview experiences from horribly rude to extremely pleasant, I survived the application process and am now in the happy position of accepted applicant. I am in the process of comparing several offers and will be contacting these programs to specifically discuss my limitations and potential accommodations. I am well-aware that ableism is quite widespread in medicine and that there will inevitably be hurdles to come. I'm just hoping to start with as much knowledge going in as possible.

I have a few questions that I am hoping you can help answer since you mentioned that your leg was more problematic than your hands. Which mobility-related obstacles did you encounter during your pre-clinical years and which ones you are anticipating during your rotations? How were these issues accommodated? Were the suggested accommodations easily implemented or did you encounter resistance from faculty or fellow students? Are there any disability-related questions you wish you had asked before picking a school? Anything else I should be asking?

Could you please put me in contact with your friend with EDS currently in med school as well? I would really appreciate it!

Thanks for your help :)
 
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Thanks for writing this post, samc. You have a lot of valuable experiences and good information complied here. I hope your rotations are off to a strong start!

I have a physical disability which primarily impairs my mobility and I use crutches to walk (except for short distances across rooms). Despite a range of interview experiences from horribly rude to extremely pleasant, I survived the application process and am now in the happy position of accepted applicant. I am in the process of comparing several offers and will be contacting these programs to specifically discuss my limitations and potential accommodations. I am well-aware that ableism is quite widespread in medicine and that there will inevitably be hurdles to come. I'm just hoping to start with as much knowledge going in as possible.

I have a few questions that I am hoping you can help answer since you mentioned that your leg was more problematic than your hands. Which mobility-related obstacles did you encounter during your pre-clinical years and which ones you are anticipating during your rotations? How were these issues accommodated? Were the suggested accommodations easily implemented or did you encounter resistance from faculty or fellow students? Are there any disability-related questions you wish you had asked before picking a school? Anything else I should be asking?

Could you please put me in contact with your friend with EDS currently in med school as well? I would really appreciate it!

Thanks for your help :)
Hello! Congratulations on getting in! During the pre-clinical years, I didn't have any mobility-related problems. I tested myself in anatomy lab, for example, standing up to dissect for a long time, to make sure I would be able to do this in the hospital. Now I'm just finishing my first inpatient block. One problem is that I have gained quite a bit of weight since anatomy while sitting at my desk and studying! So my prosthetic leg side doesn't hurt me--rather, my real foot hurts me because all that weight is pressing down on it. I requested (and was granted) the accommodation of sitting down on bedside rounds as needed, but I've been holding off as long as I can. When I've mentioned this to my attendings, they've been supportive/enthusiastic, but this is known for being one of the friendlier rotations. We take the elevator on rounds because of the laptop carts...thank God for the laptop carts. I can go upstairs at speed, but not down. I'm able to go down stairs, but I got out of the habit during a time when my prosthetic leg side knee was acting up, so I have half-lost the ability to go foot over foot, i.e., like a grownup.

I had 2 offers, but one was a much "better" school than the other, so I went with the obvious choice. The problem is that of course student affairs is going to sound welcoming when you're making inquiries as an accepted applicant. I would ask if they've recently had any disabled people come through the program, and if so, could you get their contact info?

If it's encouraging to you, I can say I know of two people on forearm crutches that recently came through my program, so it's for sure been done.
 
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Thanks for the prompt response, samc! How are you planning to modify your surgery rotation?

Good tip about asking for contact info of current disabled students! Hopefully I can get some more candid answers from them.
 
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During the pre-clinical years, I didn't have any mobility-related problems. I tested myself in anatomy lab, for example, standing up to dissect for a long time, to make sure I would be able to do this in the hospital. Now I'm just finishing my first inpatient block. One problem is that I have gained quite a bit of weight since anatomy while sitting at my desk and studying! So my prosthetic leg side doesn't hurt me--rather, my real foot hurts me because all that weight is pressing down on it. I requested (and was granted) the accommodation of sitting down on bedside rounds as needed, but I've been holding off as long as I can. When I've mentioned this to my attendings, they've been supportive/enthusiastic, but this is known for being one of the friendlier rotations. We take the elevator on rounds because of the laptop carts...thank God for the laptop carts. I can go upstairs at speed, but not down. I'm able to go down stairs, but I got out of the habit during a time when my prosthetic leg side knee was acting up, so I have half-lost the ability to go foot over foot, i.e., like a grownup.

If it's encouraging to you, I can say I know of two people on forearm crutches that recently came through my program, so it's for sure been done.
Hey there. Thanks for posting all this info. I'm about to start my clinical rotations, and the info is pretty much nil here on getting through third and fourth year with disabilities (physical/emotional/learning/ADHD.) My friend graduated last year, and she was the only student in a wheelchair here. She gave me stellar tips, and we were going to join forces on writing up a manual for others who go through here (I just actually have to, you know, go through the clerkships.) I am interested in learning more about the students that were using the forearm crutches. Do you have any further info on them? I use forearm crutches in small clinics, wheelchair for hospital. But I've only been doing it two years now, and I'm still surprisingly bad at it. Also, I know there is going to be a lot of adapting in rotations, so it would be cool to have some ideas if you have any or if you know of anyone who has any (or if anyone else on here has ideas.)

Cheers!
 
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Hey there. Thanks for posting all this info. I'm about to start my clinical rotations, and the info is pretty much nil here on getting through third and fourth year with disabilities (physical/emotional/learning/ADHD.) My friend graduated last year, and she was the only student in a wheelchair here. She gave me stellar tips, and we were going to join forces on writing up a manual for others who go through here (I just actually have to, you know, go through the clerkships.) I am interested in learning more about the students that were using the forearm crutches. Do you have any further info on them? I use forearm crutches in small clinics, wheelchair for hospital. But I've only been doing it two years now, and I'm still surprisingly bad at it. Also, I know there is going to be a lot of adapting in rotations, so it would be cool to have some ideas if you have any or if you know of anyone who has any (or if anyone else on here has ideas.)

Cheers!
Hello there! Sorry for the delay. Check your messages. ;)
 
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Thanks for the prompt response, samc! How are you planning to modify your surgery rotation?

Good tip about asking for contact info of current disabled students! Hopefully I can get some more candid answers from them.
Ohoho. Your question about the surgery rotation is timely, as I'm about to start it. My motor skills are good, so I think the main problem will be standing up. I THINK I can get by without a stool. We'll see. I do have to whip out the knot-tying practice stuff right about now, while I still have some spare time. Also, under full disclosure, I specifically asked for (and got) an assignment to one of the less busy sites. It's still a standard busy hospital, but it's not the largest busy hospital, so that should help some.
 

Gauss44

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What advice do you have for people with disabilities regarding responding to questions about their disabilities and medical circumstances? I am mostly interested in how a disabled student should respond to interview questions for medical school admissions? I hear a lot of people wrongly assuming that a disabled person couldn't make it through medical school, do you have any advice about how to respond to such assumptions?
 

ReneeM

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What advice do you have for people with disabilities regarding responding to questions about their disabilities and medical circumstances? I am mostly interested in how a disabled student should respond to interview questions for medical school admissions? I hear a lot of people wrongly assuming that a disabled person couldn't make it through medical school, do you have any advice about how to respond to such assumptions?
I haven't started med school yet, but I did discuss my disability at my interview. It really wasn't much different from how I've had to deal with concerns in job interviews. I try to highlight the positives by giving examples of situations that presented a challenge and how I solved them, or talk about a time where I recognized my limitations and how I asked for help. Additionally, I had my mentor also addressed it in her LOR since she felt comfortable doing it. Feel free to pm me.
 
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What advice do you have for people with disabilities regarding responding to questions about their disabilities and medical circumstances? I am mostly interested in how a disabled student should respond to interview questions for medical school admissions? I hear a lot of people wrongly assuming that a disabled person couldn't make it through medical school, do you have any advice about how to respond to such assumptions?
I would actually be surprised if it comes up without the interviewee mentioning it first. I rather aggressively brought it up wherever I could, and even then, most interviewers didn't care to get into it.
 
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Hey there! I saw this thread and just wanted to let you know that my father is a MD, surgeon, and most relevant to this thread-- he is disabled (only one leg, lost it in high school). Keep trucking and I'm very happy to see that you are soon to be a graduate and a doc!
Great to hear, thank you! (And who am I to argue with someone named NecFasc92?!)
 

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Here are some physically disabled trainees/MDs who have put their names in the public record and who were already disabled in medical school. There are many more physicians who, it seems, got a disability sometime in the course of practice.
very helpful friend
 

futuremdforme

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Match Day update...looks like I'll be at Beth Israel in Boston for pathology!
Congratulations! Did your disability factor into your specialty choice and residency location options?
Thanks for sharing your story.
 
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I got interested in pathology for love, late in first year, but I got lucky in that it's a less physically demanding residency. I would otherwise have gone for internal medicine or psychiatry, and running around the hospital would have been difficult but doable for me. I probably could have done IM without accommodations, but it would have been hard.

I did have a friend of mine take some videos of me pretend-grossing specimens to prove that I can use my hands. I then posted them on my homepage and put the URL in my personal statement. If I had it to do over again, I would have done something like this for my medical school applications!!!! If you're curious, have a look at my profile.

What I didn't do is mention my prosthetic leg in my essay, like I had for med school. I figured that for pathology it doesn't matter as long as I can stand up for autopsies, which I can.

Geography was just based on where my boyfriend and all my friends are. I applied everywhere between Vermont and Washington, DC except for a couple of the upstate New York programs that I just wasn't interested in. My mentors told me to apply to all of the East Coast programs if that's where I wanted to end up. For the curious, I interviewed at the following:

George Washington
Maryland
Staten Island
Mt. Sinai
U. Massachusetts
Jefferson
Pennsylvania Hospital
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson
Hofstra/Northwell/Long Island Jewish
Stony Brook
Beth Israel
Drexel
Vermont
Westchester


Then I received interviews and turned them down at the following:

Cincinnati
Case Western
MetroHealth
(Cleveland)
Allegheny
(Pittsburgh)

I waited until I got 10 East Coast interviews and then turned down the few non-East-Coast options. In case there are any would-be pathology applicants reading this, I'm happy to discuss my impressions of individual programs--just message me. I ranked all 14 programs at which I interviewed.

From the real live disabled person files, I had the bad luck to dislocate my knee on the morning of my second look at BIDMC, literally as the cab was pulling up. I did fine in the morning, but by lunchtime I could hardly walk! By the late afternoon, I was glued to a stool! I was stressed out about it, to put it mildly, but I figured if they don't like people who limp, then I'm not the resident for them...

The only other disability-specific note is that I would have ranked Vermont very highly, maybe #3, if it weren't for my leg and the ice and snow. I honestly had no business even applying to someplace with so much ice, but I had heard such wonderful things about the program!
 
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