Disability Services in Medical School

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of medical students reporting attention deficit hyperactivity disorder chronic health and/or psychological disabilities increased.

As aforementioned there was an increase in the number of medical students reporting these disabilities. However, requests for more inclusive preclinical testing accommodations, such as extra time to complete tests or a quiet setting dropped between 2019 and 2021.

The authors of a new research letter published in JAMA Network Open believe that remote curriculum delivery during the pandemic allowed students to create an appropriate learning and testing environment, reducing the need for accommodation.

Lisa Meeks PhD says that medical education was most flexible during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She adds that this could have lowered the demand for testing accommodations, but it is not known whether the need for accommodations will increase again now that in-person lectures and testing have resumed.

The findings are part of a long-term research effort directed by Meeks that tracks the prevalence of medical students in the United States who declare disability to their individual institutions. This was the first large-scale study of its sort, embracing all types of disabilities, including psychological, learning, sensory, physical, and chronic health issues.

Researchers have noticed an increase in the number of medical students reporting a disability to their school since 2015, from 2.8% in 2015 to 4.7% in 2019, and 5.9% in 2021.

Fear of stigma or bias, as well as a lack of an established institutional process, were the two most common reasons for not asking essential accommodations. The team adds that navigating another common barrier to obtaining essential disability accommodations, fear of stigma or bias, requires a continuing culture shift in medicine.

Disabled people should be able to go to medical school. Disabled people bring a unique perspective to medicine. In order to achieve their goals Disabled people need to have barriers to higher education removed.


Meeks, Lisa M, and Kurt R Herzer. “Prevalence of Self-disclosed Disability Among Medical Students in US Allopathic Medical Schools.” JAMA vol. 316,21 (2016): 2271-2272. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10544

“Remote Learning during Pandemic Aids Medical Students with Disabilities.” Phys.Org , Phys.org, 19 Aug. 2023, phys.org/news/2023-08-remote-pandemic-aids-medical-students.amp.

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