Physical disability among American medical students

Sam S.H. Wu, Patricia Tsang, Stanley F. Wainapel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The present survey aimed to assess the prevalence and nature of physical disabilities among medical school graduates and to investigate the academic performance of these new physicians with disabilities. A questionnaire was sent to the deans of student affairs of each of the then existing 128 United States and Puerto Rican medical schools, addressing the profiles of students with physical disabilities in the 1987 through 1990 graduating classes. Seventy-seven (60%) United States and Puerto Rican medical schools responded to the questionnaire, of which 67 were able to complete it. A total of 67 students with physical disabilities (40 males and 27 females) were reported. Three of the 67 students were excluded from the study because their conditions did not match our definition of physical disability. The remaining 64 students (38 males and 26 females), ranging from 0 to 10 per school, comprised 0.19% of the 33,138 students who graduated from the 67 medical schools during these 4 academic yr. The disabilities represented by the 64 students encompassed a wide spectrum of etiologies, including neurologic (39%), musculoskeletal (20%), medical-surgical (13%), visual (13%), and auditory (9%) problems. The majority of students with disabilities had above average (36%) to average (48%) academic standings. The actual prevalence of medical students with disabilities might be higher than reported because of the underreporting of the less noticeable types of disabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-186
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Disability
  • Medical School
  • Medical Students
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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