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Why We Need More Doctors With Disabilities

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Modern day father of neurosurgery Harvey Cushing said “I would like to see the day when somebody would be appointed surgeon somewhere who had no hands, for the operative part is the least part of the work.”

I would also like to see the truth of Dr. Cushing’s words come to pass. Dr. Cushing is saying that as long as a doctor can properly synthesize information, come up with a strong diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient, that’s all that matters. Throughout today’s world, many are stigmatized by what society thinks an ideal doctor should be like — the perfect student with good legs and arms. But what about true empathy, compassion and wisdom, which are essential doctor traits? Where do those originate from? I believe they come from our biggest vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

To integrate more doctors with disabilities, our ideals and views need to change. There are many ways to perform clinical tasks as a doctor with a disability, and perhaps not just the traditional way – there also are safe personal aids that help to us do the clinical tasks just as well as any other doctor. Medical schools and hospitals should do their best to accommodate the needs of professionals with disabilities. Being flexible in accommodating for medical students and doctors with disabilities is not about special treatment. It is about equalizing the field of employment and ensuring every person gets a fair go. It is also about ensuring the physician is practicing clinical procedures safely with the necessary support and interventions.

Imagine having a doctor who truly understands what you are going through, who knows all the ups and downs and challenges and could reassure you everything is going to be OK. Who truly cared about your goals and aspirations, and would walk with you through all the physical and emotional problems you are facing with fierce resilience in their heart and mind. What if employing a doctor with a disability could do so much more than bring intellect and knowledge? What if it could cure the limited and negative mindsets some people often have of people with disabilities, and open our mind to the infinite possibilities? What if it could teach other doctors to truly accept their patients’ differences and see the abilities and skills they all have to offer?

As an aspiring doctor myself with a physical disability, I would like to see more national advocacy for greater acceptance of medical students and doctors with disabilities. I believe we need to be more tolerant, nondiscriminatory and welcoming to this idea and integrate professional services and resources to ensure a healthy work environment for physicians with disabilities.

The current medical education system has many flaws which need to be addressed systematically to accommodate people with disabilities. Their inclusion would only be an asset to the medical world.

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Thinkstock image by Fabio Balbi.

Originally published: February 25, 2017
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