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Medical Schools Address Needs of Disabled Patients

Disability News

“I’ve never felt so visible and invisible at the same time,” commented one University of Pennsylvania Medical School student after completing an assignment that required the student to be put in and use a wheelchair for a day.  The goal of the assignment was to help future physicians better understand the needs of disabled patients by experiencing what they go through on a daily basis.  Medical schools hope disability lessons like this will enable future doctors to think twice about how they interact with patients with disabilities.

Similar programs are being implemented in other medical schools in response to the growing need of assisting patients with disabilities, who consistently report poorer health conditions than those without disabilities and who are particularly vulnerable to receiving substandard care, according to The Healthy People 2010 initiative.  For example, at Tufts University School of Medicine, students are now required to take a course where disabled people serve as models in medical interviews.  The interviews combine primary care concerns with disability issues.

At Harvard Medical School, a disabled professor, Lisa Iezzoni, MD, believes the key to improving the doctor-patient relationship within the disability context is better communication between the physician and the disabled patient.  She believes effective treatment demands that physicians understand the day-to-day lives of their disabled patients and therefore she designs courses to teach her medical students how to engage in this dialogue.

These new disability programs at some premier medical schools are good news for disability advocates.  They address a real need and a growing concern.  More than 54 million people in the United States are currently living with disabilities and that number is predicted to continue rising over the next couple of years.

To read more about what medical schools are doing to better assist patients with disabilities, click here.

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