Viewpoint: Physicians with disabilities are the underrepresented of healthcare's underrepresented groups

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Cheri A. Blauwet, MD, a sports medicine physician at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor at Boston-based Harvard Medical School, noted in a recent op-ed the barrier to entry for prospective physicians with disabilities is not skill or physical impairment, but overt and hidden bias by fellow physicians and patients.  

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Blauwet comments on her experience thus far in the medical industry as a physician with a disability. She said the range of patients' reactions to learning she is a wheelchair user varies, usually by generation. Younger patients who have grown up with a heightened awareness of disability in society typically do not react negatively.

However, Dr. Blauwet said older patients more often react with confusion, curiosity or dismay.

She wrote such reactions do not necessarily stem from an individual's direct prejudice against physicians with disabilities, but rather their lack of experience interacting with physicians with disabilities.

"People with disabilities often express fear or dissatisfaction with our healthcare system because they face poor access and discriminatory attitudes. This must change. Perhaps having more doctors with disabilities is one solution. As with any underrepresented group in medicine, professional diversity should reflect our population’s diversity. That simple change can bring awareness, empathy and a shared experience that ultimately makes all of us better," Dr. Blauwet wrote.

To read Dr. Blauwet's full op-ed, click here.

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