The Prevalence of Physicians with Disabilities in the United States

New Survey Estimates 3.1% of Doctors Self-Identify as Having a Disability

American physicians spend a good amount of their time treating and caring for individuals with disabilities. But how many of these doctors themselves have a disability? That’s a question a research letter answers this month in an issue of JAMA Network Open. This pioneering survey involved 6000 practicing physicians and was conducted in February 2019. It showed that 3.1% of medical doctors self-identify as having a disability. The survey sample was made up of 62.8% men, 34.3% women and .3% transgender. The mean age of respondents was 53 years old. Chronic health conditions (30.1%) led the list of disabilities followed by mobility impairments (28.4%), psychological issues (14.2%), tremors (13.4%), hearing challenges (12.1%), adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (10.4%), visual impairments (7.8%) and learning disorders (2.6%). A total of 28  physicians reported having more than one disability. Medical doctors with disabilities were significantly older than their counterparts without disabilities. Compared to the doctors without disabilities, more physicians with disabilities reported working in medical schools and nonteaching hospitals. These doctors also worked less hours per week but had more days on call. Additionally, they were more likely to work in rural areas. The researchers who conducted this survey feel that their data provides a benchmark to track growth in this population of physicians. Since many of the physicians with disabilities in this survey reported multiple underrepresented identities, the survey’s authors believe that research examining harassment, discrimination and bias is needed to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. 

Original Study

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