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Comment & Response
February 28, 2017

Disclosure of Disabilities by Medical Students

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
 

Copyright 2017 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

JAMA. 2017;317(8):858. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.21148

In Reply Ms Schwartz emphasizes the importance of disclosure as it relates to providing opportunities to medical students with disabilities. Although disclosure is important, if not necessary, for receiving accommodations from an institution, disclosure alone is unlikely to change the broader attitudes and cultural norms that limit access to medical education for students with disabilities. First, the direction of causality is unclear. The fear of disclosure and the culture that precipitates that fear are likely jointly determined: lack of disclosure may contribute to a less-inclusive culture for students with disabilities, but that culture may also breed a fear of disclosure. Second, full disclosure would be difficult to enforce. The decision to disclose may be weighed differently by the applicant, who desires admission, compared with the matriculant, who has already been admitted and desires accommodations. Third, not all disabilities are readily apparent. Although Schwartz emphasizes physical disabilities, research suggests that nonphysical disabilities such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, and psychological disabilities are more prevalent among US medical students.1 Those with nonapparent disabilities may face considerable bias that disclosure alone does little to resolve.

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