The authors discuss how the strategy of fostering greater diversity and inclusion regarding minorities can help decrease health disparities and improve health outcomes. They propose that examining admission to medical school of qualified individuals with physical disabilities and fostering better communication with these individuals should be part of that strategy. Whereas people with disabilities constitute about 20% of the population, only between 2% and 10% are practicing physicians. The two major barriers to having more persons with disabilities as medical students are the cost of accommodating these persons and medical schools’ technical standards. The authors offer suggestions for overcoming these barriers, and the additional barrier of communication with persons with various disabilities, such as deafness or visual impairment.
The authors also discuss some of the issues involved in having greater representation of minorities in medicine. In addition, they stress the need for more training in cultural awareness for students and residents and for physicians well along in their careers. Medical educators will be increasingly called on to create new models designed to sensitize students and faculty to racial, ethnic, and other types of diversity, while documenting the efficacy and costs of extant ones, from the standpoint of both practitioner and consumer.
The authors hope that the moves toward greater diversity and more training in cultural awareness will increase the efficacy of health care while reducing its cost. The demands of these efforts will require the commitment of diverse, intellectually capable, and compassionate people at many levels of academic medicine.
Dr. DeLisa is clinical professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UMDNJ–New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.
Dr. Lindenthal is professor of psychiatry, UMDNJ–New Jersey Medical School, and director, UMDNJ–New Jersey Medical School Institute for the Public Understanding of Health and Medicine, Newark, New Jersey.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. DeLisa, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 30 Bergen Street, ADMC-1, Suite 101, P.O. Box 1709, Newark, NJ 07101; e-mail: email@example.com.