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Technical Standards

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of a medical student with a hearing disability at Creighton. The court stated that the student was not given ample accommodations so that he could perform at an equal level as his med school colleagues.  Many medical schools will consider this court decision, and it will perhaps have an impact on their issuing of accommodations for those with disabilities.  

Each medical school in the US has a set of “technical standards” which stipulate what medical students should be able to do in order to fulfill the requirements of the MD degree. Medical schools sometimes provide accommodations to assist students in meeting these requirements. Prospective medical students should be aware of technical standards before enrolling; they can usually be found on each medical school’s website. Here is a copy of the technical standards at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine:

“In addition to certain academic standards, candidates for the M.D. degree must have abilities and skills in observation, communication, motor function, quantification, abstraction, communication, motor function, relationships and behavior. Some disabilities in certain of these areas may be overcome technologically, but candidates for the medical degree must be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner without the use of trained assistants. The candidates must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers. The candidate must be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care in emergency treatments to patients. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine motor muscular movement, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch and vision. Those desiring additional information should contact the Admissions Office.”

Those with disabilities may have difficulty meeting these standards without assistance, and Johns Hopkins specifies that students should be able to “perform in a reasonably independent manner without the use of trained assistants.”  The recent court case, which ruled in favor of the med student, will perhaps require medical schools to provide more accommodations than they have in the past.

University of Michigan’s technical standards were altered in 2016 to be more inclusive of those with disabilities. A recent article describes the rationale for the change; perhaps more medical schools will follow Michigan’s lead in the coming years. For comparison, here are the technical standards for Stanford, Yale, Columbia, UCSF, and Weill Cornell.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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