Recess Rehash: What Med Schools Miss Out On Because of “Technical Standards”


Diversity includes disability

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Photo by b_lumenkraft

[We took a break last week, so here’s a rerun in case you missed it!]

Dr. Marley Doyle is a reproductive psychiatrist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  She’s also “legally blind”, with 20/400 vision.  She struggled through medical school just like all med students, but with that additional complication.  She made it, however, and her discussion with Aditi Patel and Irisa Mahaparn gives some clues as to why.  First, her disability was invisible which made it easy for people to assume that she wasn’t disabled.  And second, she was naive to the fact that she could ask for help.  In other words, she stumbled through it all and came out the other side without having been a “burden” for her school. Years later, she acknowledges that she could have asked for more help.

We also discuss the technical standards that most schools have in place to define what a student physician should be able to do physically, intellectually, and emotionally to succeed in school.  These standards, however, often seem to be written with a stereotypical disabled person in mind, one who cannot possible succeed because of their disability, and thus should not be in medical school.  We discuss the concept of “assumed competence” which, as  recent CCOM guest lecturer Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami pointed out, allows people with disabilities to show they are able to fulfill their duties as opposed to assuming they cannot.  And we discuss the AAMC’s recent first-of-its-kind report “Accessibility, Inclusion, and Action in Medical Education Lived Experiences of Learners and Physicians With Disabilities,” which brought to light the inconsistent policies and procedures for, lack of support of, and lack of awareness many schools have of their legal obligations under the law towards students with disabilities.  And we talk about why med schools that don’t encourage disabled people to apply are missing out on a piece of the diversity puzzle.

Plus, Dr. Doyle helps answer a listener who is lucky enough to have several med school acceptances, and wants to know how to decide among them!  Lucky you, ‘Anxious Premed!’  Don’t worry, we can help.

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Are you living with a disability and discouraged about your med school plans?  Are you in medical school, disabled, and have some advice to offer? Tell us about it by calling 347-SHORTCT anytime, visit our Facebook group, or email

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The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; nor do they reflect the views of anyone other than the people who expressed them.  If you have feedback on anything you hear on the show, positive or not, let us know.