Professionalism: Working and Training with a Disability Just How Far Have Attitudes Evolved?
Dealing with severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss is straightforward enough for Regina Troxell, MD, now in her fifth year as a child neurology fellow at Memorial Hermann in Houston: She relies on a hearing aid and lip reading to communicate. But, she said, dealing with some of her colleagues is sometimes somewhat more complicated.
“If an attending says something when we’re rounding and I don’t hear because there’s background noise in the hallway, or they’re not facing me, it can become an issue,” Dr. Troxell said. “A couple of times it has come up during evaluations, where they wrote, ‘I don’t know if she didn’t hear what I told her or just didn’t do it.’ Maybe they’re not comfortable asking me at the time of the event because it’s a disability.”
Getting misunderstood or underestimated has been a near-universal experience, said neurologists and other physicians who happen to have disabilities in interviews with Neurology Today. The physicians and medical students — who discussed a wide range of disabilities, from hemiparesis, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy to spinal injuries and hearing loss — said handling their disability is often easier than handling their fellow physicians’ biases. But there are signs that progress has been made toward greater acceptance, they said.