NEED LOTS OF CRITICAL FEEDBACK AND OPINIONS: DISABLED DOCTOR!! (MUST READ)

Apr 20, 2014
4
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Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I have decided since I was a very little girl that I wanted to be SOME kind of doctor or at least be an active member in the medical field in some shape or form. I currently work as a certified Pharmacy Technician at 19 years old which I enjoy doing a lot. I like the knowledge that comes with the jobs, the ability to share knowledge that effects other people and their lives, and solving other people's problems (health related or not) and the small amount of power that comes with being able to direct or guide and help people to a path of better health.

I have decided that I want to get my Associates Degree in Clinical Medical Assisting then move on to earn my Bachelors Degree in Diagnostic Medical Imaging and FINALLY earn my masters in Physician Assistant Studies.

Great plan, right? Here's where I need your feedback: I am born without a full left hand; meaning that I am missing 5 fingers on my left hand. I have lived all my life WITHOUT any kind of assistance from any outside sources other than myself and my personal perseverance; learning or teaching myself to do a multitude of different things on my own, again without assistance. In high school I was on the double dutch, volleyball, bowling and cheerleading team. I don't receive government assistance, in fact I don't qualify! I have never been placed in a special education program. I do very well for myself.

Do you think that I would be able to succeed in a Physician Assistant program or at least be able to perform the requirements/day to day functions of the program and career? Or do you think that I should reconsider my career goals and focus on something else? I don't like to waste time or money. I don't want to apply for these schools, gain acceptance and pay tuition just to find out that I can't participate or that this is not a

ALSO IN YOUR RESPONSE PLEASE ANSWER: In Physician Assistant school do you learn to do surgeries? Like is there a class you take that's hands on or something?
 

HinduHammer

Righteous in Wrath
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Hi, You have a very moving story and I applaud your commitment to this path. Your first step should be calling the PA school or med school that you may want to attend and explain your situation and get their feedback.

However, I do know that for med schools at least you need to sign something attesting to the fact that you can do the things required of you including lifting, auscultation, palpating, etc. I imagine it would be very difficult for you to meet the requirements of rotations in surgery (for ex) if you cannot use your left hand (though I'm unclear on how much use you do or do not have of the L extremity). If you cannot do things requiring both hands, I imagine it would be very difficult to go to medical school and become a physician.

That being said, though, have you ever heard of Charles Krauthammer? He's a political pundit on fox news. He was a first year at harvard med and became paralyzed from the waist down from a swimming/diving accident. He was able to finish medical school and become a licensed psychiatrist.

If you have your heart set on becoming a PA or physician, it may be possible to become a psych speciaist. But, again, your very FIRST STEP is contacting the PA/med schools and explaining your unique situation!!!

Also regarding your last question, I worked in an ER with PAs and from what I understand, PAs can do minor procedures but not necessarily the more complicated stuff. Like the docs would let (and in fact prefer) the PAs suture or drain abscessess, but would always do lumbar punctures or central lines themselves.

Good luck to you!
 
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Oct 29, 2010
37
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Medical Student
Hey there!

I personally think someone that overcomes adversity the way that you describe would be a great asset to the health field! Certainly shadow some PA's to judge if you think you can manage what you see them doing (i'm not saying that you will observe everything that will be expected of you in just a few experiences, but it certainly would give you some clear insight).

Most schools seem to have physical check-up forms that incoming students are required to get signed off on before starting classes. Check out the technical standards required on various PA schools websites too. They might be able to offer you some insight into what you will be expected to do.

Here is some info from NSU's website...

"Applicants for and students enrolled in Physician Assistant programs must have abilities and skills in the
areas of observation, communication, motor, intellectual/critical thinking, interpersonal, and
behavioral/social attributes. Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities will be
considered on an individual basis. Students wishing to request accommodations for disabilities should
review the information at: http://www.nova.edu/disabilityservices/ and contact the Health
Professions Division (HPD) Coordinator.

[...]

Motor:
The ability to participate in basic diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers and procedures is required.
Applicants and students must have sufficient motor function to execute movements reasonably required to
properly care for all patients. Applicants and students must be able to perform motor functions with or
without assistive devices."

Don't give up on your dream yet! Contact the schools and see what they think, and certainly talk to some PAs

Best wishes and good luck!
 
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OP
U
Apr 20, 2014
4
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Great answers so far! Thank you for your support and please keep the informational opinions and insights coming. I would love to hear from current Physician Assistant students, too! So far what you both have noted are things that I can certainly do. The surgical aspect of PA school may present some challenge, however I am confident that I would be able to overcome it with patience, persistence and practice like I have done for the last 19 years!

My worry was really when it comes to the very small technical portions such as administering a foley catheter into a penis or administering an intramuscular injection where I (think and correct me if i'm wrong) would have to pinch the skin and inject the needle with the other hand. I mean I tie my shoes with both hands so I think I can do that I am just not too sure! I do have full use of my hand, but I can't physically grip something like I can't hold a cup in my left hand. Things like that.

The other part of the question: I am afraid of surgery. Too much life and death involved. I plan to work outside of the hospital however in private offices or outpatient areas?
 

Goro

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Jun 10, 2010
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You are perfectly OK for being a doctor. years ago, when I was a tech, the was a nephrologist at the hospital where I worked who had a withered arm...like a T rex. If blind people can become doctors, then so can you.

I have decided since I was a very little girl that I wanted to be SOME kind of doctor or at least be an active member in the medical field in some shape or form. I currently work as a certified Pharmacy Technician at 19 years old which I enjoy doing a lot. I like the knowledge that comes with the jobs, the ability to share knowledge that effects other people and their lives, and solving other people's problems (health related or not) and the small amount of power that comes with being able to direct or guide and help people to a path of better health.

I have decided that I want to get my Associates Degree in Clinical Medical Assisting then move on to earn my Bachelors Degree in Diagnostic Medical Imaging and FINALLY earn my masters in Physician Assistant Studies.

Great plan, right? Here's where I need your feedback: I am born without a full left hand; meaning that I am missing 5 fingers on my left hand. I have lived all my life WITHOUT any kind of assistance from any outside sources other than myself and my personal perseverance; learning or teaching myself to do a multitude of different things on my own, again without assistance. In high school I was on the double dutch, volleyball, bowling and cheerleading team. I don't receive government assistance, in fact I don't qualify! I have never been placed in a special education program. I do very well for myself.

Do you think that I would be able to succeed in a Physician Assistant program or at least be able to perform the requirements/day to day functions of the program and career? Or do you think that I should reconsider my career goals and focus on something else? I don't like to waste time or money. I don't want to apply for these schools, gain acceptance and pay tuition just to find out that I can't participate or that this is not a

ALSO IN YOUR RESPONSE PLEASE ANSWER: In Physician Assistant school do you learn to do surgeries? Like is there a class you take that's hands on or something?
 
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Darth Doc

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Jun 22, 2013
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ALSO IN YOUR RESPONSE PLEASE ANSWER: In Physician Assistant school do you learn to do surgeries? Like is there a class you take that's hands on or something?
Yes, you will have to do hands on things like place IV's, draw blood, assist in surgery (hold things for the surgeon), perform suturing. There are some exam techniques that require two hands (percussion), but there are typically other exam techniques that can give you the same information as percussion. Most providers I know rarely if ever percuss in the real world. I think you will be able to find a work around/ alternate method to most of the two-handed procedures. I've seen a number of providers with unique physical challenges find a way to make it work.

There are plenty of PA jobs that don't require two hands. I worked in a family practice office where the MD wasn't comfortable doing any procedures, so we mid-levels weren't allowed to do them either. Psychiatry, family practice (depends on the office), oncology, allergy, endocrinology for example tend to have fewer procedures.

As someone with a disability, you've faced unique obstacles. PA school will give you new obstacles the rest of us don't have to face, but the program that accepts you will help you find your way through.
 

Law2Doc

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Just be careful. I don't know the story for PA, but many of the inspirational stories at Medical school programs were accomplished with pretty significant accommodations, which residencies/employers weren't willing to make at the other end. A number of the blind and other disabled people who were able to obtain MDs that you can read about online never actually became licensed physicians. So the med schools got good press, but the student spent four years getting a degree that didn't lead to anything. So at least for medicine, you need multiple organizations/hospitals to be willing to accommodate -- that's a lot to hope for. Presumably you would have difficulty suturing, using syringes, putting in and taking out lines/tubes -- all stuff a PA might do. Your school might accommodate these away, but that doesn't mean your subsequent potential employers would. I would talk to more programs/organizations before I invested tuition to make sure you don't rack up loans you can never repay.
 

samc

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Hi! See my post on this very topic: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/i-am-a-physically-disabled-successful-applicant-in-my-30s-ask-me-anything.1047394/

Also take a good look at my MDApps. If you're willing to do the PA equivalent of my 3rd cycle, then go ahead, give it a shot.

I made it, but it wasn't pretty. I have other, much more significant, disabilities, but the finger situation is what got people really riled up.

You are younger and will thus have it a little easier in some ways. I will be frank even if it makes me sound like a jerk. Even among smart people, even in the competitive grad applicant pool, law, medicine, top-tier Ph.Ds, there is a line between the intellectual haves and the have-nots. I have been blessed to fall on the side of the haves. Sure, I devoted my life thus far to public service, sure, I started over, sure, childhood in hospitals, blah, blah, blah, but I think it was my historical moneymaker that made one of these schools willing to take a chance on me. I am not saying that there aren't a lot of smart people around. I am saying that I don't think I would have made the cut if I were merely hardworking.

If I were you? I would immediately switch to the most rigorous four-year public school in your area and major in biochemistry.

Originally I wanted to be a psychiatric NP (as an alternative to an MSW, not as an alternative to medicine). Nursing school was not a place friendly to disabilities. I would think twice before going the midlevel route. At 19 you have plenty of time just to go to med school. The prerequisites are the same (when we're talking PA vs. MD).

You can PM me if you'd like to discuss further. Good luck!
 

samc

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I just want to say (both in reply to Law2Doc and as a shout into the ether at various adcoms):

"Presumably you would have difficulty suturing, using syringes, putting in and taking out lines/tubes -- all stuff a PA might do."

Original poster, that "presumably" is where you're going to get the shaft. People, you don't need 10 fingers to do this stuff. ANY GIVEN NORMAL PERSON might have trouble relearning if his hand got lopped off at the age of 30. 5 fingers plus stubs is plenty for all that. I have three fingers on one hand and stubs on the other, and I can dissect, suture, all that. It is not that big a deal. Until you've lived with someone with no fingers, hold the presumption.

OP, it bears repeating...watch that "presumably," because that's what's going to make trouble for you.

Law2Doc, this is nothing personal...I am just trying to spell it out.
 

Law2Doc

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I just want to say (both in reply to Law2Doc and as a shout into the ether at various adcoms):

"Presumably you would have difficulty suturing, using syringes, putting in and taking out lines/tubes -- all stuff a PA might do."

Original poster, that "presumably" is where you're going to get the shaft. People, you don't need 10 fingers to do this stuff. ANY GIVEN NORMAL PERSON might have trouble relearning if his hand got lopped off at the age of 30. 5 fingers plus stubs is plenty for all that. I have three fingers on one hand and stubs on the other, and I can dissect, suture, all that. It is not that big a deal. Until you've lived with someone with no fingers, hold the presumption.

OP, it bears repeating...watch that "presumably," because that's what's going to make trouble for you.

Law2Doc, this is nothing personal...I am just trying to spell it out.
Agree and disagree. I have no doubt you have a workaround for all these things and are more facile with what you've got then I can imagine, when doing things independently. but in the OR when the surgeon is dictating hat he needs you to hold and where he needs you to put a finger to help him out (some surgeons do this) he's not going to want you to block his view with more then a finger. So it becomes a workaround for him as well. So that's an accommodation. Is it a reasonable one? Probably. But we can come up with any number of potential accommodations, each of which may or may not be reasonable at all hospitals. Heck, it might be an accommodation (need a second person) just to glove and gown the OP in a sterile fashion. I'm just saying the OP needs to look a couple of moves ahead because getting into and through school might be the easy part. I don't decide what's reasonable in terms if accommodation, but neither does the OP. It makes sense to reach out to those who do before racking up student loans.
 

samc

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OP, just as another datapoint, there is (or recently was) an attending at Mt. Sinai (NYC) with only one hand with five fingers. Saw her myself. Saw her working. And not in psych. As disabilities go, this just isn't that bad.

Here's a 1982 article from the Journal of Hand Surgery--"Less Than 10: Surgeons with Amputated Fingers." http://harvardmedgirl.blogspot.com/2009/06/less-than-ten.html The most radical case in the pictures is, in fact, a retired pediatric orthopedic surgeon from Johns Hopkins, one Liebe Diamond. See also http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/diamond.html.

Law2Doc, I really don't mean this to come off as nasty or combative. On the internet it's hard to convey the "isn't this an interesting discussion" tone. Something I did before applying, and something I'd recommend for the OP, is shadowing surgeons and IM residents. I was in a small community hospital for a couple of months and got a lot of one-on-one time with a plastic surgeon who was doing (for him) easy cases. During this time he said, ok, the med student does this, can you do this? [Yes.] The med student does that, can you do that? Etc. I'm sure you mean well, but it's a heck of a jump from hearing "oh, there are people on the internet without 10 fingers" to remarking "oh, such a person might need extra assistance even to gown and glove," "oh, such a person will have trouble using a syringe," and "oh, such a person is going to plunk down her whole hand and block the surgeon's view." (Have you ever worked with someone with missing fingers? In or out of medicine?)

OP, this is what you're up against. Be advised.

OP, far from being a rah-rah-disabled-people-can-do-anything sort of person, I freely admit that there are areas of medicine where we are going to have trouble. But they may not be the areas where even you yourself are expecting to. For example, I worked in a wound clinic. I got a lot of flak and a lot of really patronizing "what an inspiration you are!" when people saw that yes, I could actually open packages, use scissors, etc., etc., etc. [20 years of schooling, and you get praise for being able to cut. Sigh.] This line of conversation petered out as people saw what I could do. As you describe with your missing-fingers hand, I am not used to holding heavy or even large things with my right hand. I can do it, but it's inconvenient. So my biggest problem? [Residency directors of the future, I hope you're listening.] My little hand and that arm got very sore from holding the roll of Ace bandage. Not used to keeping my hand stretched out. Like a bad case of carpal tunnel. I treated it with ice and with not using it at all outside of the hospital. So, yes, there are limitations, but not what you may be able to predict now.