Project Description :
2% of students in the School of Medicine (SOM) register with Student Disability Services, yet 25% of graduate students in the SOM who completed a recent Graduate Student Association survey identify as having a disability, mental health disorder, or chronic illness. Students with disabilities may be inherently less able to advocate for themselves than other types of underrepresented groups due to the nature of their disability. They may experience tremendous fatigue or face a power imbalance when superiors finance their accommodations. These students also juggle extra obligations, like scheduling doctor’s appointments and managing health insurance. Additionally, students with disabilities may fear disclosure because of concerns about judgment, bias, discrimination, future career prospects, licensing, clinical privileges, and skewed perception of ability. As a result, some students with disabilities suffer in silence instead of seeking help.
Lack of disclosure places Hopkins in a difficult position – students can’t be forced to reveal their conditions, but they also can’t be offered support if they don’t ask for help. Disability is infrequently included in diversity and inclusion initiatives, and students with disabilities may feel like they are invisible. We believe that Hopkins must prioritize creating an environment that welcomes people of all identities and abilities and celebrates disability as a valuable type of diversity. This may help students feel safe to disclose their conditions.
We propose the establishment of the Equal Access in Science and Medicine Student-Alumni Network to address these inequities and provide resources and support for students with disabilities. The depth and breadth of expertises and the diversity of perspectives among Hopkins students and alumni makes us uniquely poised to establish innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that could reduce inequities for persons with disabilities both within and outside of the University.
In alignment with the principles outlined in the Roadmap for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Equal Access in Science and Medicine Student-Alumni Network will create opportunities for robust engagement between individuals with diverse viewpoints and promote deep consideration of challenges faced by scientists and medical professionals with disabilities. We will first work with Student Disability Services and the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center to identify and contact Hopkins students and alumni with disabilities from the SOM, School of Public Health (SPH) and School of Nursing (SON).
Alumni and students with disabilities will be invited to:
Join a Slack channel that will serve as a hub for students and alumni interactions: We will establish a Slack channel to connect students and alumni and enable the exchange of information and ideas about ongoing disability initiatives and research. We will also promote sharing of perspectives on disability from across Johns Hopkins and the biomedical workforce.
Complete a survey that will be used to match students with an alumni mentor: We will send a survey to students and alumni with disabilities that will be used to match mentor-mentee pairs based on career interest and disability characteristics. Alumni mentors and student mentees will be introduced via email with suggested starting points for conversation. Students and alumni mentors will be expected to maintain the relationship independently, however, if a student is not satisfied with their mentor, we will work with them to identify a new, more suitable one.
Participate in two alumni career panels: We will feature alumni with diverse career and disability experiences from the SOM, SPH, and SON in two, 1.5 hour alumni career panels. These events will focus on the disability-related experiences of Hopkins alumni in their careers, as well as strategies to remove barriers to access and promote inclusion of individuals with disabilities in science and medicine. We will spend the first hour of the panel asking both prepared questions and questions that we invite students to submit in advance. Specific points of discussion will include each panelist’s unique career experience with disclosure, accommodations, disability-related challenges, and self-advocacy. The last 30 minutes of the panels will focus on discussions between alumni panelists and student attendees. Students will have the opportunity to ask panel members follow-up questions and share their own experiences.
This network will advance four priority areas for funding:
Faculty diversity and success: Many students with disabilities may consider careers in academia and pursue employment at Johns Hopkins. Furthermore, alumni with disabilities may be faculty members. We hope that the Student-Alumni Network will promote help-seeking behavior among students and faculty and encourage disclosure, which will generate more accurate reports of disability frequency, improve culturally competent care of patients with disabilities, and improve inclusion of faculty with disabilities in decision-making spaces.
Student success: The Student-Alumni Network will provide successful role models to students with disabilities, who may feel isolated or alone in navigating graduate or medical school with a disability. Students will be provided with opportunities to network and form relationships with alumni and other students with disabilities, which may lead to future career opportunities. Additionally, these discourses and events will help reduce stigma around disability and promote students with disabilities as a valuable component of the Hopkins community.
Alumni engagement: Alumni will engage with students through discourse in the Slack channel, one-on-one mentorship, and participation in the career panels. This will provide multiple opportunities for alumni to share their perspectives, form relationships with students, and promote student and alumni success by learning from each other’s experiences.
Training and professional development: Students will hear perspectives and receive mentorship from alumni with diverse career interests and disabilities. This will provide students with information about navigating disclosure, accomodations, and other disability-related challenges when entering the workforce. Additionally, students will be more knowledgeable about resources available to them and strategies that can be utilized to self-advocate throughout their careers.
We are excited to see how this network will unite students and alumni to take on complex issues related to disability, disclosure, and removing institutional barriers to access for scientists and medical professionals with these conditions.