UMMS Commitment to Support Students with Disabilities

Learning and Disability Specialist

Charlotte O'Connor, M.Ed.
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Medical School Mental Health Services

Jennifer Votta, M.D. and Karla Blackwood, M.D.
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Two medical students chat in the library, one uses a wheelchair

UMMS supports students with a wide range of disabilities. We want prospective and current students to know that if they need disability support, we have outstanding resources. We are available to help navigate barriers you encounter in medical school that are caused by disabilities -- whether that disability pre-existed, develops while at school, or is recognized for the first time during your time here.

UMMS students meet Technical Standards with or without accommodations. Through the determination of individuals with disabilities and the dedicated teamwork of members of the UMMS community, we have a history of developing creative, supportive solutions to reasonably accommodate students with disabilities.

We encourage you to feel comfortable reaching out to our Learning and Disability Specialist for a private discussion about barriers related to disability that you encounter in medical school.

Assessing and Diagnosing Learning Disabilities

Occasionally while at UMMS, students notice that they learn differently than their peers and realize that this has been a life-long pattern in many academic environments. UMMS can help students locate providers who perform formal assessments to identify learning disabilities. The results of the assessment often bring great relief and self-actualization of skills and challenges experienced over a life time. The post-assessment report also provides a basis to develop and experience appropriate accommodations.

Maintaining Mental Health

Students with existing mental health diagnoses are encouraged to arrange an appointment with a provider as soon as possible to maintain continuity of care while at UMMS. Students experiencing new mental health symptoms should contact Medical School Mental Health Services (MSMHS), for a confidential psychiatric evaluation. MSMHS also provides time-limited and evidence-based treatment. If a student requires long-term management, MSMHS can make referrals to external, community-based therapists and psychiatrists.

Some Common Barriers and Accommodations

Below are some examples of the types of disabilities and accommodations we have experienced in UMMS. The list is by no means exhaustive; each individual will have unique circumstances and together, we will develop the most appropriate accommodations.

  • Amplified stethoscopes
  • Pocket Talker, a sound amplifier/headphone device for those who are Hard of Hearing.
  • CART –Communication Access Real Time Translation
  • Captioning of video content

A learning disability is neurological in nature and may impact reading, writing, spelling, and math, as well as the ability to organize and recall information.

ADHD may present as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, or a combination of the two.

  • Extended time for test taking
  • Testing in a reduced distraction environment

Mental health conditions involve changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior. Some examples include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Ability to take time off from class and clinic to attend mental health appointments 

If conditions such as a mild concussion, broken wrist, or shoulder surgery interfere with full participation in the curriculum, they are considered temporary disabilities.

  • Extended time for test taking
  • Use of speech-to-text software

Obstacles to traveling to or navigating within specific clinical sites due to disability.

  • Consideration to reduce barriers when scheduling  both location and sequence of clinical experiences

Conditions such as lupus, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, etc.

  • Time off for medical treatment
  • Approved absences when flares occur

Disabilities that affect movement ranging from gross motor skills (such as walking) to fine motor movement that involves manipulating objects by hand.

  • Smartpen
  • Automated blood pressure machine
  • Chair or stool to sit during procedures
  • Adjustable/elevated desks
  • Voice-dictation software for entering notes and orders
  • Cardiology Stethoscope with modified handle to hold stethoscope
  • Panoptic Ophthalmoscope/Otoscope
  • Reflex hammer with modified handle
  • “Oval 8 Finger Splints” to keep fingers extended for Ob/Gyn physical exam maneuvers

Though not a disability, students who are pregnant or lactating are afforded accommodations.

  • Time off for medical appointments
  • Being excused from class or clinical duties to express breast milk