COVID-19 and the need for disability conscious medical education, training, and practice.

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The COVID-19 era exposes what was already a crisis in the medical profession: structural racism, ageism, sexism, classism, and ableism resulting in healthcare disparities for Persons with Disabilities (PWD). Early research highlights these disparities, but we do not yet know the full impact of this pandemic on PWD. Over the last 20 years, many medical schools have attempted to develop disability competency trainings, but discrimination and inequities remain, resulting in a pervasive distrust of medicine by the disability community at large. In this commentary, we suggest that disability competency is insufficient because the healthcare disparities experienced by PWD are not simply a matter of individual biases, but structural and systemic factors requiring a culture shift in the healthcare professions. Recognizing that disability is a form of diversity that is experienced alongside other systemic disadvantages like social class, race, age, sex, gender identity, and geographic location, we explore the transformative potential of disability conscious medical education, training, and practice that draws on insights from intersectional disability justice activism. Disability conscious medicine is a novel approach, which improves upon competency programs by utilizing disability studies and the principles of disability justice to guide us in the critique of norms, traditions, and institutions to more fully promote the respect, beneficence, and justice that patients deserve.





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Doebrich, Adrienne, Marion Quirici and Christopher Lunsford (2020). COVID-19 and the need for disability conscious medical education, training, and practice. Journal of pediatric rehabilitation medicine, 13(3). pp. 393–404. 10.3233/prm-200763 Retrieved from

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Christopher Daniel Lunsford

Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Pediatric Physiatrist (Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine)
Disability Advocate - Anti-Ableism in Healthcare

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