Friday, February 5, 2016

Valuing diversity in medicine: Physicians with disabilities

Blauwet

Cheri A. Blauwet, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation and sports medicine practitioner at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, presented her talk, “Valuing All Forms of Diversity and Inclusion in Medicine: The Experience of Physicians with Disabilities,” at Department of Medicine Grand Rounds on Jan. 28.  The MGH Department of Medicine Diversity Inclusion Board sponsored her presentation.

Blauwet’s talk described the history of the disability movement, the ADA Generation and the challenges and opportunities for including and empowering individuals with disabilities throughout medical school and their careers. Although 15-20 percent of Americans are individuals with disabilities, less than 1 percent of medical students have a disability. Those students often do not know what to expect when they apply to medical school and often experience hidden discrimination.

As an undergraduate, Blauwet attended the University of Arizona, a school well known for its adaptive sports program and excellence in supporting students with disabilities. She then earned her medical degree from Stanford University. Throughout her years of schooling, residencies and fellowships, she learned what accommodations best empowered her to succeed. Blauwet explained how a disability can make individuals better doctors, and how including disability as an element of diversity is critical.

“It’s great to be a pioneer, but not everybody should have to be,” said Blauwet, who acknowledged how different her life could be if she wasn’t as proactive or outspoken or given certain opportunities. “As long as we think creatively, are open-minded, and encourage discussions about disability accommodations along the way, then opportunities for inclusion will continue to grow, ultimately improving both the patient and provider experience.”

Blauwet competed as an elite wheelchair racer for the U.S. team in three Paralympic Games – Sydney ‘00, Athens ‘04 and Beijing ‘08 – and brought home seven medals from those competitions. She won the Boston and New York City marathons twice each and the Los Angeles marathon four times. Her primary clinical and research focus are on sports medicine and sports injury prevention in Paralympic Athletes, as well as community-level access to physical activity and exercise for all individuals with disabilities.



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