Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Pamela L Eddy

Committee Member

Virginia McLaughlin

Committee Member

Allison Knight


Students with physical disabilities are underrepresented in medical school. Individuals with physical disabilities have largely been left out the diversity movement, which has increased access to medical education for women and minority students (Steinberg, Iezzoni, Conill, & Stineman, 2010). For students with physical disabilities who are admitted, not much is known about their experiences, thus the focus of this study was to explore the medical school experiences of individuals with physical disabilities. as the theoretical framework, the social model of disability as developed by Oliver (2009) allowed for an examination of how medical students with physical disabilities experienced the medical school environment. For this study, I utilized a qualitative approach as a guide. Seven former medical students, six males and one female, with physical disabilities were interviewed about their experiences through medical education, from their efforts to gain admission to medical school, through their didactic and clinical education and training, and ultimately to their practice as a physician. The stories of the participants created a narrative account of the subjective meaning they created. This research found that although deficit models of disability persist in society, each participant overcame their physical impairment, and societal barriers, physical and social, to complete medical school and residency programs. Each participant found success through a combination of alternative methods of acquiring knowledge and performing medical procedures, internal motivation and determination, and the support of allies. The findings demonstrate that the structural and social construction of the medical school environment is inhospitable to individuals with physical disabilities.



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