Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie,
MD, PhD, Senior Editor.
To the Editor: Dr Steinberg and colleagues1 decry the lack of data on disabled faculty, who
"are thus largely invisible." Yet the authors do not disclose whether they
themselves have disabilities. If so, then their choice to remain personally
"invisible" may contribute to the problem. As a physician who has been paraplegic
(from a T7 fracture) for nearly 30 years, I believe that only those who are
disabled can fully comprehend the self-perception and identity formation engendered
from the implicit and explicit reactions of others.2 I
stopped conducting teaching rounds after my disability, even though I worked
at our university hospital. The reasons for this are many—some of them
my fault for not being more assertive, another that I was not on a tenure
track. But most important was the perception of others, as the authors state,
"neither medical school faculty nor students are expected to have disabilities."
Put another way, most (but certainly not all) physicians are uncomfortable
with the idea of a disabled colleague.3 I
fear such attitudes will not be altered by stricter adherence to the Americans
With Disabilities Act. More personal and subtle ways must be found.
Kirkland LR. Health Professionals With Physical DisabilitiesHealth Professionals With Physical Disabilities. JAMA. 2003;289(12):1507. doi:10.1001/jama.289.12.1507-a