Diversity among doctors: Students with disabilities are finding their place in medical schools—and beyond

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That medical students and residents face stigma because of a health condition is ironic—but not so surprising. “There’s some deep psychological theory around how doctors in general may not necessarily accept their mortality,” says Vera Krejcik, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians with Disabilities. “A lot of people have noticed a certain discomfort; colleagues don’t know how to negotiate being with somebody with a difference.”
Krejcik had a stroke while studying medicine at the University of Calgary. With limited use of one arm, she switched her focus from internal medicine to psychiatry. It was a matter of being “realistic,” says Krejcik. “I don’t worry about hobbling around or needing to suture.”
Before anyone can become a doctor, there are technical standards they must meet, both physical and cognitive, says Lewis, who helped Dunkley establish herself as a resident at the University of Alberta. But there are intangibles to consider, too. Dunkley and others are proving that. As Lewis puts it, “Any candidate who comes from an extraordinary background with a unique perspective, they often do make extraordinary physicians.”

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