Understanding medical students' attitudes towards and experiences with persons with disabilities and disability education

Paige C. Chardavoyne, April M. Henry, Karin Sprow Forté

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: In the United States, approximately one quarter of individuals are living with disabilities and receiving healthcare services. The undergraduate medical school curriculum provides an opportunity to improve the attitudes and skills of physicians working with persons with disabilities (PWD). Objective/hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding about fourth-year medical students’ self-reported attitudes towards and experiences with PWD and disability education. We hypothesized that medical students would recall having education about disabilities, would be able to identify a pivotal disability education experience, and would report being less comfortable working with PWD than persons without disabilities. Methods: This mixed methods observational study was conducted via an online survey distributed to medical students during Winter 2020/2021. It contained an adapted instrument and a few short answer questions. Results: Our survey had 44 respondents, a 28% response rate. Though 98% of students reported receiving disability education during one or more courses, 80% felt their disability education during medical school has been inadequate. Additionally, 64% reported having an influential learning experience involving PWD. Despite their attitudes, education, and experiences, respondents reported feeling less comfortable obtaining a history, performing a physical exam, and establishing a differential diagnosis when working with PWD. Conclusions: This study highlights the need for continued development of disability curricula, which likely extends beyond the studied institution. Additional educational elements could be added to humanities sessions, as well as other courses and clerkships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101267
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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