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Thread: Is med school even possible?

  1. #1

    Is med school even possible?

    Before my injury, I was 100% certain that I would like to be a surgeon. However, now I have obvious concerns. I am a C5-C6 quadriplegic with very limited hand movement, although I have made solid improvements with my dexterity since my accident 5 years ago. Despite my physical limitations I have maintained excellent grades in both high school and college (so far at least).
    I realize that my ambition of becoming a surgeon is now unrealistic. However, I was wondering if anyone had any insight into other physician careers I could pursue. In addition, does anyone know of medical school programs that are not as physically demanding (or at least are accommodating to quads).
    Thanks!

  2. #2

    hope....

    I have a good friend who,s son is following his dream same injury level as you and he is at Tulane in pre med...4.5 years post.....pretty incredible!....Send me your info in a pm and I will pass it on to them...it can be done!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by djskipp'n View Post
    Before my injury, I was 100% certain that I would like to be a surgeon. However, now I have obvious concerns. I am a C5-C6 quadriplegic with very limited hand movement, although I have made solid improvements with my dexterity since my accident 5 years ago. Despite my physical limitations I have maintained excellent grades in both high school and college (so far at least).
    I realize that my ambition of becoming a surgeon is now unrealistic. However, I was wondering if anyone had any insight into other physician careers I could pursue. In addition, does anyone know of medical school programs that are not as physically demanding (or at least are accommodating to quads).
    Thanks!
    http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showthr...medical+school

  4. #4
    I'm currently in my second year of medical school and it's definitely doable. Though, as a quad, some physical exam skills will probably be very difficult to accomplish. As a para, I need accommodations made for me and/or a lot of patient involvement so I can properly assess the patient. Radiology and Psychiatry would be very easy fields to get into and you could excel in each, but I think your biggest challenge will be mastering the physical exam skills during medical school.

    Anyways, check out the thread I created a couple months ago. It'll give you a good idea of who is out there. Consider contacting one or more practicing physicians on there or contacting a medical school and it's ADA person to go over your potential needs.

  5. #5
    Good for you!

    Here is one of the most famous threads on CareCure, still ongoing about one of our members who is a C6-7 quad... currently in his 3rd year at Johns Hopkins.

    http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showthread.php?t=77419

    He is a pioneer at Hopkins, and he has had a bumpy road due to some faculty not being accommodating at times, but he has found advocates and is paving the way for others. You should get it touch with him. His father posts the most on the thread.

    If you really want to do it, it's possible. Surgery may not be realistic, but there are other options.

    The daughter of Dr. John Kessler (prior Neurology Chairman at Northwestern in Chicago) is a para and just finished med school at Northwestern. Granted it is easier being a para, but the nice thing about Northwestern is that the hospitals are all in a two block radius. Med school is very physically demanding... particularly the last 2 years of clinical rotations... and to physically have the different hospitals nearby saves a lot of commuting time. Northwestern is also a lot easier to get into then Johns Hopkins! Also within one block of Northwestern is Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is affiliated with Northwestern, and is one of the best SCI rehab hospitals in the country. A nice place to have nearby! Dr. Kessler's daughter just finished med school and now is going to specialize in Rehab (PM&R) at RIC!

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    I know it is possible because one of the rehab doc at Shepherd, John Lin is a para. He is also dual credentialed and did his training post injury.

    Compared to SCI rehab, medical school will be a piece of cake. I wish you well as you chase your dream. You may not be a surgeon, but you can be a great doc. --eak
    Elizabeth A. Kephart, PHR
    mom/caregiver to Ryan-age 21
    Incomplete C-2 with TBI since 3/09

  7. #7
    It is certainly possible for a tetraplegic to become a physician as there is ample precedent. However, I must caution you that it is more arduous that you may realize and is much more so for a tetraplegic than a paraplegic. Make sure you have an excellent support system beforehand. Being a physician is no longer the prestigious or lucrative profession that it once was and regulatory agencies keep increasing the hoops that you have to jump through in order to maintain licensing and board certification. Make sure that it is right for you for the right reasons as there may be other allied health professions that are less difficult to pursue.

    If you are an undergraduate, you must ace all your premed courses such as organic chemistry, physics and biology. You also need to do very well on your MCATs. If you are accepted into med school, your first 2 years will be mostly academic and will literally consume every waking moment of every day. It is of a magnitude more difficult than college. Your biggest challenge will likely occur in your third year when you begin your clinical rotations. All medical schools have pretty much the same mandatory curriculum and rotations including surgery, medicine, OB/GYN, pediatrics, psychiatry and neurology. Hopefully, they will cut you some slack when it comes to performing procedures, i.e. starting IV lines, ABGs, central lines and intubations as these are definitely problematic for a quad. As another poster indicated, performing a physical exam will present challenges. You will learn certain tricks and discover that position is extremely important. You need to have some intact sensation in order to palpate.

    Getting up at 4 AM in the middle of winter and braving a foot of snow (if you are up north) gets old pretty fast. Upon graduation, you will have to complete a residency, which is a minimum of 3 additional years with extremely poor pay while working 80+ hours per week and taking call. If you choose a specialty that is more amenable to your limitations, e.g. psychiatry, radiology, pathology or PM&R, residency will be 4 years (5 years for radiology). If you want to sub-specialize in SCI Medicine, you will have an additional year of fellowship to complete with lousy pay in addition to taking the subspecialty board. You will also have a mountain of debt to deal with.

    In spite of the ADA, there is still much prejudice to contend with out there and not everyone has an open mind even in the field of SCI Medicine, unfortunately.

    However, if you are willing to make the sacrifices and have the tenacity, you will have accomplished something that very few other people are capable of and will be profoundly rewarding to you.

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