Re: Chronic Illness and applying to Med School

I am curious to know if having a chronic illness can preclude a student from getting accepted to Med. School ? I am guessing that the answer depends a lot on the nature of the illness… I’d like to know.

Legally speaking, schools cannot make an acceptance decision based on a chronic illness; that would be discrimination. You are under no obligation to divulge this information in the application process, and in fact, you’d be well-advised not to. Even if you go into an interview in a wheelchair, it would be illegal for someone to ask about it unless YOU brought it up as a discussion point.
Many schools have a statement that you must be able to physically perform certain skills (I came across one at St. Louis University’s med school website and if this is a concern, you’ll want to see if it’s still there - I read it five years ago). The physical skills are those you might think of - e.g. able to see and hear well enough to perform a physical exam. Not all schools have such a statement, and people with significant disabilities, including deafness, blindness, and paraplegia, have graduated from medical school.
If your question is about a person whose illness has an impact on his/her ability to function every day, well, that’s going to be something each individual must decide. Certainly if the illness causes someone to have significantly less energy than others, or requires a lot of time in clinic / therapy / hospital, med school is going to be tough.
It will really depend on the nature of the illness and its impact on an individual’s daily life.

Thanks, I was thinking about the same thing.

Here are the technical standards for one medical school…
1. Observation

The applicant/medical student must be able to participate actively in all demonstrations and laboratory exercises in the basic medical sciences.
The student must assess and comprehend the condition of all patients assigned to him or her for examination, diagnosis and treatment.
Such observation and information acquisition usually requires the functional use of visual, auditory and somatic sensation.
2. Communication

The applicant/medical student must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and assess non-verbal communications.
The student must be able to effectively and efficiently transmit information to patients, fellow students, faculty, staff and all members of the health-care team.
Required communication skills include speaking, reading and writing, as well as the observation skills described above.
3. Motor

The applicant/medical student must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic maneuvers.
Students must be capable of performing basic laboratory tests, possess all skills necessary to carry out diagnostic procedures, and execute the motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients.
4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

The applicant/medical student must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize. Problem solving, the critical skill demanded of physicians, requires all of these intellectual abilities.
The applicant/medical student must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
The applicant/medical student must have the capacity to perform these problem-solving skills in a timely fashion.
5. Behavioral and Social Attributes

The applicant/medical student must be able to fully utilize his/her intellectual abilities and exercise good judgment. Prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients is required.
Students must be capable of developing mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients and others.
Applicants/medical students must also be able to tolerate taxing workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients.
Compassion, integrity, concern for others, commitment and motivation are personal qualities which each applicant/medical student should possess.

When I was at VCU as an undergrad I was the president of the pre-med society and was responsible for setting up events on campus for the pre-meds. I was required to make sure we had a signing interpreter for a younger pre-med that was deaf. I always wondered how she would be able to handle these requirements about health.
I don’t know if she ever got into med school, but I have often wondered if a deaf student can be admitted. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

I was watching one of those “true life” medical shows a while back and they had a young doctor (I do believe she was a resident) that was deaf. She read lips, had an electroic stethoscope and she could speak quite well. I saw another one where the doctor that was deaf had an interpreter all the time.
So obviously it can work - I really admired these young women for going forth and following their passion.

I wonder if they were deaf in school or after med school. I also admire someone who overcomes a disablity to achieve what they want in life.

As do I. That is interesting.

the list of requirements that mpp posted is one of the more restrictive ones I’ve seen. The stuff about cognitive skills made it sound to me like a person with an LD might very well not be supported or assisted at that particular school. (e.g. “ability to think in three dimensions”)
I have been a (silent) member of an AMSA listserv dedicated to disabilities since before I went to med school - it’s been an interest of mine for quite a while. They address all sorts of disability issues from both the patient standpoint (access to care issues for the disabled, for example) and student/physician standpoint (things like extended time or other accommodations for MCAT, USMLE etc.)
I can tell you that medical schools are NOT, by and large, the most open-minded or accommodating folks when it comes to medical students with disabilities. Disabled students have had to be strong self-advocates and really work hard to get the help they need. USMLE is notorious for not giving test accommodations and persists in being this way despite legal actions (I don’t know the status of those actions, sorry).
why am I saying all this? I just want to point out that a student with a chronic illness, someone who is going to require understanding from a medical school administration, who may require that the dean’s office back him/her up in requests for time off or accommodations of other sorts… this student needs to know that you will have to fight for what you need, and you may NOT get a terribly sympathetic hearing from your dean. It is regrettable but true.

Here is an article about the hearing disabled doctor - the show I saw her on was Houston Medical. She has been deaf since childhood:

Thanks to all of you for your very helpful input. Mary, I particularly appreciate the information and insight you’ve shared. I will consider all I’ve read here as I go forward in this pre-med discernment process. I’ve just started dealing with an undiagnosed chronic illness. The doctors are still trying to figure it out and identify it, as it is very unpredictable. It appears to be an autoimmune illness, and I’ve been wondering how this will affect my plans for the future. I am cautiously optimistic.
Thanks again,

Zora, I’ve PM’ed you.