How to improve care for patients with disabilities? We need more providers like them

June 10, 2019

It is common for patients to prefer seeking care from a clinician similar to them -- such as of the same gender, ethnicity and culture -- who can relate to their experiences and make treatment plans that work better for their lives. To meet these preferences from patients and improve quality of care, a diverse clinician workforce that matches the diversity in the general population is needed. However, when it comes to patients with disabilities, the chance of getting a clinician "like them" is extremely low, which may lead to patients' reluctance to seek care or follow prescribed interventions and treatments. Meanwhile, without adequate scientists with disabilities bringing perspectives to patient-centered research, the ability to improve care for patients with disabilities is limited.

Why is the representation of people with disabilities so limited in the biomedical workforce?

Bonnielin Swenor, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is working to solve this disparity.

Living with low vision herself, Swenor experiences difficulties in many aspects of her life, but devotes her time to researching how to help patients like herself, and assuring those patients that there are ways to overcome the hardships and pursue their goals. Swenor sees herself as more a patient than a researcher, and uses her unique perspective to formulate patient-centered research questions to bring better care to people with visual impairment. She believes that more people with disabilities like her are needed in the biomedical workforce.

In a new editorial published on May 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine, Swenor and Lisa Meeks, a collaborator from University of Michigan Medical School, address barriers to an inclusive workforce and propose a roadmap to guide academic medical institutions toward creating a work environment more inclusive for people with disabilities.

"Although more institutions are embracing diversity and inclusion, people with disabilities still face barriers in pursuing and getting support in their careers," says Swenor. "We are providing employers with recommendations to enhance inclusion of persons with disabilities in these settings."

In the NEJM piece, Swenor and Meeks recommend that academic medical centers include in their diversity efforts people with disabilities, develop centralized ways to pay for accommodations that might be required and other actions that would encourage more students with disabilities to pursue careers in medicine.
-end-
If you are interested in speaking with Swenor about her NEJM editorial article or about her perspective as a patient and employee with a disability, contact the media relations team at Johns Hopkins Medicine: Jianyi Nie jnie4@jhmi.edu or Marin Hedin mhedin2@jhmi.edu.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Diversity Articles from Brightsurf:

More plant diversity, less pesticides
Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands.

Insect diversity boosted by combination of crop diversity and semi-natural habitats
To enhance the number of beneficial insect species in agricultural land, preserving semi-natural habitats and promoting crop diversity are both needed, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied of Ecology.

Ethnolinguistic diversity slows down urban growth
Where various ethnic groups live together, cities grow at a slower rate.

Protecting scientific diversity
The COVID-19 pandemic means that scientists face great challenges because they have to reorient, interrupt or even cancel research and teaching.

Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.

Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota
The diversity of bacteria in the human gut is an important biomarker of health, influences multiple diseases, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases and affects various treatments.

Underestimated chemical diversity
An international team of researchers has conducted a global review of all registered industrial chemicals: some 350,000 different substances are produced and traded around the world -- well in excess of the 100,000 reached in previous estimates.

New world map of fish genetic diversity
An international research team from ETH Zurich and French universities has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time.

Biological diversity as a factor of production
Can the biodiversity of ecosystems be considered a factor of production?

Fungal diversity and its relationship to the future of forests
Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.

Read More: Diversity News and Diversity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.