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Update on the Disability Curriculum Initiatives at the University of Minnesota
Medical School

-By Sara Axtell, University of Minnesota Medical School

In 1999, a group of disability activists, medical students, and physicians developed recommendations to improve the medical school curriculum on disability issues. Since that time, these recommendations have helped to guide the school's curriculum development on disability issues. Here is an update on recent initiatives at the school.

A new session for first year medical students will focus on how the concept of a "normal" body is socially constructed and how it impacts on our perceptions of disability and on medical practice. The session will focus, in part, on debates around cochlear implants. This is the first required session in the curriculum that will discuss disability and deaf cultures and its implications for health care.
The school is considering a proposal to make people with disabilities a more integral part of teaching students basic skills related to medical interviewing and physical exam. If the proposal is accepted, the school will work with Promote Awareness and other disability organizations to recruit people with disabilities to help teach students as they learn basic clinical skills.
Our third annual "Disability Issues in Health Care" lecture series is scheduled to take place in September. This year, topics will include basic disability etiquette, disability and health care needs across the lifespan, and prenatal testing and disability rights.

Please send comments, questions, or suggestions to Sara Axtell at or 612-625-4489