Medical Students with Disability and Chronic Illness
Medical Students with Disability and Chronic Illness unites and empowers medical students
through advocacy, mentorship, education, and community building while using our collective
power towards advancing the improvement of healthcare for the disabled community.
We are dedicated to raising awareness of disability and chronic illness amongst healthcare trainees and
addressing the stigma associated with practicing medicine while having a disability and/or chronic illness.
What is MSDCI?
MSDCI is committed to supporting current and future medical students with disability and chronic illness, addressing the needs of the disability community and increasing disability awareness and appreciation, cultural competency, and social consciousness amongst medical practitioners.MSDCI Chapters represent communities based at allopathic and osteopathic medical schools across the country. Our programs are designed to support and serve medical students with disability and/or chronic illness, who are often marginalized. We are committed to increasing accessibility of medical school for dedicated trainees of all abilities.
Programming at a Glance
MSDCI fosters connections between disability student groups at medical schools across the country and between our chapters and near-peer mentors. By developing new chapters, we broaden the reach of disability advocacy and further normalize disability in medical students and trainees.
Our programming is heavily focused on bringing disability awareness into medical communities. MSDCI provides shared resources and strategies for effective advocacy and seeks to illuminate the intersectional role of the disability community in social justice efforts.
We believe that disability education is essential for addressing bias against disabled providers and advancing health equity for patients with disabilities. Through curricular recommendations, clinical skills projects, and examinations of technical standards at our institutions, we seek to improve medical education for patients and providers alike.
MSDCI is dedicated to improving accessibility for students and trainees with disabilities or chronic illnesses. We are creating resource guides with tips and tricks to help navigate the medical journey and documents to guide accessibility changes at medical institutions.
What's happening now?
Letter to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education
MSDCI has written a letter to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for allopathic medical schools, advocating for disability training as a requirement for accreditation. We are currently seeking endorsements and support for the letter. The letter is accompanied by a petition collecting supporting signatures from health students and faculty.
Dear Liaison Committee on Medical Education,
We write to you urgently as healthcare trainees committed to increasing disability inclusion and representation in allied health education and the practice of medicine itself. We are members of Medical Students with Disability and Chronic Illness (MSDCI), a national student-led organization for students with disabilities and chronic illness and their allies with chapters in medical and other health professional schools across the country. As the National Council on Disability (NCD) has previously brought to your attention in multiple correspondences (1,2), the lack of training for treating people with disabilities (PWD) in medical education is a significant barrier to quality healthcare for PWD and contributes to the marked health inequities experienced by this demographic (3,4). These disparities have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has revealed undercurrents of ableism in medicine and strong bias against PWD among physicians (4). We write to express our concern that ableism and its effects remain unaddressed in the majority of medical curricula (1-4). Section 5307 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 specifically required the development, evaluation, and dissemination of model disability curricula for inclusion of such training in health professional schools (5), however recent research suggests that less than one quarter of medical schools provide any disability-focused training (6). The lack of physician training on disability has been well-documented in the literature for more than twenty years despite the passage of civil rights protections and anti-discrimination laws mandating such training (8-10). This is concerning given that 26% of Americans, more than 60 million people, live with disability (11). We urge the LCME to recognize that the absence of disability training in medical education is a human rights and social justice issue that jeopardizes the health of the largest minority group in the U.S. We advise the LCME to use their influence on medical education and formally integrate requirements for disability training in the standards of accreditation.
The language of standard seven, ‘curricular content’, in the LMCE’s “Functions and Structure of a Medical School: Standards for Accreditation of Medical Education Programs Leading to the MD Degree” does not include disability training, nor does it recognize that disability is not equivalent to illness (12). Echoing the NCD in their previous letter to the LCME, “we strongly believe that the facts argue for inclusion of specific language; if specific language is not included in these Elements to require medical schools to incorporate disability specific cultural competency training, it is more than likely that schools will continue not to incorporate such training” (2). We strongly advise the LCME to unequivocally integrate a requirement for disability curricula in the “Functions and Structure of a Medical School: Standards for Accreditation of Medical Education Programs Leading to the MD Degree”.