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MSTP Disability Statement

The UMass Chan MSTP is fully committed to the support and recruitment of learners with disabilities. We believe that physician-scientists with disabilities are uniquely positioned to provide valuable perspectives and promote research for conditions that are not well appreciated by individuals without such disabilities. While over 20% of adults in the United States have a disability (Okoro CA, et. al. (2016). Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 67, 882–887), under 5% of medical students surveyed in 2019 reported to be an individual with disability (Meeks LM, et al (2019) J Am Med Assoc 322, 2022–2024)

This discrepant representation is likely to be even larger in the MD/PhD population, for which there are no numbers at the national level. We are committed to bridging this gap with current and ongoing efforts to increase the recruitment of MD/PhD students with disabilities.

One of the major difficulties in recruiting students with disabilities is that queries at the admissions level are felt to potentially constitute a disadvantage during the competitive application process. Indeed, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools cannot require disclosure of disabilities on an application or during their interviews. Therefore, our strategy to enhance recruitment of students with disabilities will be multi-pronged and developed in close collaboration with our Office of Student/Learner and Employee Accommodation Services. We will begin with communicating on our websites and throughout our admissions process our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Our multi-step process is summarized as follows:

First, throughout the admissions and recruitment process, inclusivity to accommodate individuals with disabilities is a high priority of the UMass Chan MSTP. To promote equity and unbiased review of all applicants, we do not ask for one to identify of disability on the application itself. However, a transparent message is posted on the admissions website, and within the admissions portal, related to non-discriminatory practices. At recruitment events, we make every effort to meet prospective students where they are, related to communication approach and the sharing of information verbally and through literature and media. Regarding ADA compliant recruitment materials, we ensure media such as videos have professionally executed closed captions. At the interview stage, invitation emails and the portal to access virtual interviews have resources and contacts if ADA related support is needed. We are actively developing additional material for our MSTP website that reflects our commitment and practices to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Second, we will increasingly emulate the holistic review process that has been implemented by our Graduate Medical Education Office, where particular focus is placed on narratives of adversities that the applicant has had to overcome. This approach has improved the recruitment of individuals with disabilities, who are provided with accommodations necessary to succeed (for example, 24/7 ASL interpreters for individuals with severe hearing impairment; use of service animals).  

Third, recognizing that a rise in representation of students with disabilities observed from 2016 to 2019 is attributed to an increase in the number of students who disclosed a psychological disability or chronic health condition for which they received disability accommodations, we will pay particular attention to individuals who have made use of accommodations including extra time on examinations, testing breaks, note-taking, living and housing accommodations such as priority parking, materials in alternative formats, alternative clinical placements, and use of assistive technologies.

Fourth, we will incorporate images and language on our website that explicitly communicate our support for individuals with disabilities, and the facilities on our campus that are there for the purpose of their support and success.

Fifth, a pivotal element of the MD/PhD curriculum at UMass Chan is the weekly Physician Scientist Forum. This forum includes quarterly sessions where experts are invited to speak about injustice in medicine and medical research as it relates to race and gender. We will establish a specific session on disabilities to increase awareness of this topic.