Doctor in wheelchair alongside patients is more comforting than at foot of bed

by Ivano Abbadessa - 2017.07.25
Doctor in wheelchair alongside patients is more comforting than at foot of bed
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While 20% of Americans have some kind of disability, only 2% chooses to go into medicine. What discourages thousands of young, disabled individuals from attempting to wear the white coat is, for the most part, university. In direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act they do not seem to care about assisting students before or after Medical School admission exams. A recent study evacuate whether large U.S. universities guarantee equal opportunity for this special student population. The results shed light on the fact that many students with handicaps were disadvantaged already, just due to the difficulty in finding relevant information about admission exams on university websites. And, only 1/3 of the campuses offer some kind of lodging or special rental situations for these students.

This type of discrimination against single individuals eventually adds up to a high cost for healthcare in the land of the Stars and Stripes, because the system misses out on the professional contribution of many highly competent individuals, who might offer something special to patients. As was demonstrated in a recent New York Times article about two physicians in particular.

Dr. C. Lee Cohen, operates at Massachusetts General Hospital. Due to her partial hearing loss in both ears, she uses an amplified stethoscope when listening to the heart and lungs of her patients. “Compared to my colleagues, I’m able to communicate better with elderly patients who have lost their hearing. From my own personal experience, I understand that the brain elaborates words and syllables in a certain way when hearing is not good. For this reason, instead of asking patients to repeat themselves, I ask them to try and communicate a concept differently. And, I try to do the same thing for my patients with hearing problems, so that I’m sure they will be able to understand me”.

Dr. Gregory Snyder, a physician in Boston, practices medicine while in his wheelchair, due to an accident that cost him mobility in both legs. In fact, at work, they often think he is a patient. “My disability and rehabilitation made me a better doctor to my patients…if I had never gone through what I went through, I’d have been a white, tall, blond, blue-eyed physician taking care of his patients at the end of their bed. Instead, I sit right next to them, paralyzed in my wheelchair, and they understand that I’ve been in that same bed, just like them. And, I’m sure that this has a special meaning to them”.

According to the experts, in fact, there is good reason to believe that greater diversity among physicians, in terms of more space given to disabled doctors, can only be a benefit for healthcare in general. Even if only for the little bit of extra empathy that passes between the disabled doctor and his/her patient.

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