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Thread: discouraging

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002


    hi all, my boyfriend, c4 quad wants to go to med school. It is the only thing he has ever wanted to do. He is also looking at law school and at neuroscience grad programs--but he has really not done that much looking, and he needs to soon because he will be done with undergrad soon. So, we are on spring break and I e mailed every medical school in the United States about him. The responses have not been good. They all say that they do not discriminate on the basis of disablity, but then they send me a list of their "technical standards" that he could not meet and say that he would not be accepted. Univ, of Pitts. actually told me that they have had 2 quads apply in the past but were not accepted bc of the disability. IT is particularly frustrating bc we just spoke to a quad doctor who was paralyzed while in med school--the school only VERY reluctantly let him continue, but he now IS a radiologist--so a quad can be a doctor, I just cant find a school. I have not even told my bf that I am doing this--I will only tell him if there is good news. There is still hope because I have not heard back from many of the schools yet.
    It is just discouraging. He would be such a good doctor. He is truly the smartest person I have ever met.

  2. #2
    Senior Member prttynpnk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    South Carolina
    You keep looking-with his brains and your support, I bet you can accompliosh a lot!

  3. #3
    Have you tried The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston?

    Tough times don't last - tough people do.

  4. #4
    Try contacting the Mayo Medical School. Don't know what luck you'll have but give it a try. I realize you're being helpful but it also might be better if he does the contacting. I suspect that your contacting these places makes it look like he's incapable of even doing that.

  5. #5
    I think his best bet is talking to others who have already done what he wants to do.

    ... ...

  6. #6
    Senior Member ChesBay's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Coastal Virginia
    So, we are on spring break and I e mailed every medical school in the United States about him. The responses have not been good. They all say that they do not discriminate on the basis of disablity, but then they send me a list of their "technical standards" that he could not meet and say that he would not be accepted.
    I would suggest that he follow the standard application process. I would not mention disability in that process, application, Mcat's , etc...

    If / when your boyfriend is accepted somewhere or offered interview deal with disability issue at that time.

    There should not be any part of the application process that requires him to identify himself as a person with a disability.

    Bottom line like employment it would be much easier to argue discrimination based on disability ( if there is any ) Post-offer .

    Good luck..

  7. #7
    I'm not suprised Misa. I've read a couple of stories about people with serious disabilities (requiring the use of a wc) having a difficult time getting into medical school. If his GPA, MCAT scores etc., are above par then they have no basis, besides discrimination, to reject him.

    I agree with Paul, follow the normal application procedure and be sure to omit any mention of his disability. It also helps to have an inside connection. Try applying to programs that have admitted disabled students in the past and contact the schools office on disability for info. about their policy regarding disabled students who require assistance.

    If you continue to encounter obstacles after exhausting all of your options, consider contacting an attorney.

    Good luck.

    [This message was edited by seneca on 03-26-03 at 02:17 AM.]

  8. #8
    I know people with paraplegia who have been accepted to medical school, but not tetraplegia. Due to the requirements for technical skills (doing surgical procedures, treatments, physical exams, etc.) that ALL physicians must complete in their basic training prior to specialization, I would find it extremely unlikely that someone with a C4 injury could get accepted into any medical school.

    This is not discriminatory as the ADA clearly has exceptions for "essential job components" that cannot be accomodated. For example, it would not be discriminatory to refuse to hire a person with a C4 tetraplegia for the job of PCA...clearly they cannot perform the essential components of the job.

    All the physicians I know who have tetraplegia were already physicians (had completed all or nearly all of their medical school, if not their residency) prior to their injury, and were able to transition to another specialty or complete a second residency in a field that did not require physical procedures be done by the physician. This has included internal medicine (the physician was a vascular surgeon prior to his injury and now works with a nurse practitioner who does most of the physical aspects of exams, etc.), psychiatry, physiatry (again working with a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant) and radiology. This is not possible for the basic medical school student who is required to do rotations in all specialties and do procedures such as drawing blood, starting IVs and catheters, CPR, deliver babies, perform surgery, etc., etc.

    I would not put all my eggs in one basket making plans for only medical school, but also look into options including clinical research (a PhD in neurophysiology for example so he could do research on a SCI cure) or law school. If he is a real "people" person and wants to help people, he might also want to consider a PhD in psychology. Clinical social work is also possible, although it pays much less.


  9. #9
    Good advice KLD, I must have overlooked the C4 part. Having a disability means you'll have to be accommodating and make adjustments. If you can't pursue your first career of choice then choose the next best thing. I had dreams of becoming a doctor when I was younger so I majored in biology when I went to college. I couldn't complete most of the lab assignments on my own and in the pre-ADA era, schools weren't required to offer assistance so I decided to major in bio-psychology instead. The labs were still a pain so I eventually abandoned the science field and completely switched gears. As KLD suggested, maybe your bf could consider other areas in the health field that don't require manual dexterity or being able to stand. Anyway, I thought the following article was interesting.

    Doctors say ADA was a good first step

    Ten years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, physicians with disabilities consider the changes in society and physical surroundings the law has spurred.

    By Stephanie Stapleton, AMNews staff. Sept. 11, 2000.

    Elena M. Massarotti, MD, is director of the Itzhak Perlman Family Arthritis Treatment Center at New England Medical Center in Boston. She is an assistant professor of medicine at Tufts Medical School. She conducts clinical research and sees patients. And she uses a wheelchair.

    When Dr. Massarotti was 9, she became a paraplegic and was hospitalized for six months. "I had to relearn how to live in a world that was surprisingly unfriendly to the disabled," she said. She remembers bathrooms at the hospital were not designed for children in wheelchairs.

    This experience was the first of many difficult encounters. And they now remind her of the value of the Americans with Disabilities Act. "A social awareness has come part and parcel with [the ADA] and made life much more palatable," she said.

    The ADA, enacted July 26, 1990, celebrated its 10th anniversary this summer. The controversial measure is considered to be a landmark civil rights law, guaranteeing equal opportunity for the more than 50 million Americans with some form of disability. It not only bars discrimination in employment and education, but also requires that most public facilities be accessible. Still, the challenges faced by those who live day-to-day with disabilities continue. And the world of medicine is no exception.

    "Doctors are just part of society -- no better or worse," said Stanley F. Wainapel, MD, a New York physiatrist who has had vision loss since he was 8. In many ways, the struggles physicians face when confronting disability are twofold, he said. They must first work through all of society's usual stereotypes. In addition, they must address biases that sometimes come from the culture of medicine where, for trained healers, disabilities are a sign of defeat.

    More than selling pencils

    "I have had no choice in being an advocate," said Thomas E. Strax, MD, a rehabilitation medicine specialist who has had cerebral palsy since birth. A 1967 graduate of New York University Medical School, he has always challenged conventional thinking. While an assistant professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, for instance, he allowed a colleague to present him in a hospital gown on a gurney to a physical diagnosis class. "The class agreed that I was probably only capable of selling pencils."

    Dr. Strax is now medical director of the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center, Edison, N.J., and professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J.

    Dr. Strax thinks he may have been the first child with developmental disabilities mainstreamed into New York public schools. It all came down to a diagnosis by the school board's physician describing him as "disabled" rather than "handicapped."

    This experience taught him an important lesson. "Semantics has been more important than anything else in holding people back." It's one of the ways in which he thinks ADA is critical. There are differences between the words "disability," "impairment" and "handicap." Understanding the distinction is key, he said.

    Dr. Strax said he has seen considerable changes in how the public views people with disabilities. Other physicians with disabilities, too, point to changes within the profession. Some say they have witnessed an increasing number of people with disabilities pursuing medical careers. But this wasn't always the case.

    Dr. Wainapel, 53, now clinical director of the Montefiore Medical Center Dept. of Rehabilitation Medicine and a full professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y., was diagnosed at age 8 with retinitis pigmentosa. His father, a physician, always dreamed his son would follow in his footsteps. But there were no role models for blind doctors.

    Dr. Wainapel never gave up on the idea of becoming a doctor. During his teen years, an ophthalmologist told him his vision would hold through medical school. During his third year, he received a diagnosis of another, slower degenerative condition.

    It was not until the 1980s that his vision reached a point at which he began using a white cane. Now, he can no longer see well enough to read. Before Dr. Wainapel examines a patient, a secretary relays the patient's chart information. When a patient's condition requires direct observation, he calls in a colleague.

    "But most of what I have to do does not require vision" -- listening to a heartbeat or feeling the curve of a spine, he said. And, although he avoids procedures such as joint and tendon injections, he does do acupuncture.
    Dr. Massarotti also always wanted to be a doctor. But she worried that her wheelchair might interfere.

    She went to college at Tufts University, where she was a trailblazer. For medical school, she opted to seek admission again at Tufts.

    Dr. Massarotti graduated in 1984. But the issues of accessibility were very present along the way. Anatomy lab and histology class were difficult. Even the hospital was full of roadblocks. "One would think it would be an easier place -- it is not," she said.

    In the years since, Dr. Massarotti has witnessed definite inroads in attitudes and accommodations. Still, she adds, "the world is never gong to be 100% wheelchair accessible." Doors are too heavy. Needle bins and supplies are out of reach. What is important about the ADA, she said, is its guarantee of access.

    The downside is the law's "extrapolation to other diseases," said Dr. Massarotti. It worries her. "I'm biased -- I may even be accused of being self-centered."

    Dr. Wainapel agrees this is the law's weakness -- the temptation to enable "everybody to decide everything should be a disability." But at the very least, he added, it is better to have ADA on the books acknowledging the rights of this minority.

    David Hartman, MD, a psychiatrist in Roanoke, Va., weighs the importance of the law from two perspectives. Although he became completely blind at age 8, he was accepted into medical school in 1972 -- an era when many people still questioned whether a blind person could actually be a doctor, he said. He believed strongly then that he did not want to pursue litigation or other mechanisms to leverage his admittance. His position was that any special accommodation would make it easier for the naysayers. It took him 10 tries before he got the nod from Temple University.

    For his patients, the ADA aids those disabled by diseases such as manic depression or schizophrenia. "The law does help these people," he said. It allows them protections from losing their jobs and even shows them that the system supports them.

    Nonetheless, even after the ADA's 10 years, certain truths remain.

    For some, disability can be difficult to understand, said Dr. Wainapel. "A lot of people don't think things are possible. They don't understand what's available through technology -- and, frankly, the human spirit."

    Dr. Hartman remembers when, years after his childhood eye surgeries, he again met the doctor who treated him. This surgeon told Dr. Hartman his accomplishments were a tribute to imagination. And this, Dr. Hartman said, is what is the most important element for success and understanding. "It takes imagination to stretch outside ourselves."

  10. #10
    Great article. Dr. Strax is a very highly thought of physiatrist and is active in many professional organizations. He is a strong advocate for inclusion of physicians with disabilities, and a strong advocate for his patients as well.


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