More Medical Students May Have Non-Apparent Disabilities Interview with:  

Lisa Meeks , PhD
Director, Medical Student Disability
UCSF Medical Center

Lisa Meeks , PhD Director, Medical Student Disability UCSF Medical Center

Dr. Lisa Meeks What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This was the first study to include students with AD/HD, learning, psychological, and chronic health conditions. This study found that the prevalence of students with disabilities is up to four times higher than previous studies indicated.

AD/HD, learning, and psychological disabilities were the most prevalent, suggesting that most students with disabilities in medicine have non-apparent disabilities. Within MD granting programs, the number of students self-reporting disability varied between 0% and 12%. Explanations for the high variability between programs are unknown, however, anecdotal reports suggest the degree to which programs have dedicated resources and inclusive practices for students with disabilities influence student disclosure. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are more medical students with disabilities than previously thought yet programs are likely to be unaware of a students status as a person with a disability unless they disclose as most have non-apparent disabilities. We feel these numbers continue to be underreported given the stigma surrounding non-apparent disabilities including learning and psychological disabilities. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response:  The preponderance of students with ADHD, learning disabilities, and psychological disabilities suggests that these disability subtypes should be included in future research efforts, such as studies assessing the performance of appropriately accommodated students. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The National Institute of Health requires that programs actively recruit and develop a plan for retaining persons with disabilities in order to maintain grant funding. This effects MD/PhD students as well as fellows and some residents. By creating a culture of inclusion, programs benefits on many levels, including contributing to physician-patient concordance, which improves patient compliance and satisfaction, thereby improving health outcomes of persons with disabilities in the general public (19% of the population). Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Meeks LM, Herzer KR. Prevalence of Self-disclosed Disability Among Medical Students in US Allopathic Medical Schools. JAMA. 2016;316(21):2271-2272. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10544

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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