Here are 5 doctors and medical students who show that a comeback in their careers is still possible.
1. Paralysed surgeon learns to operate againIn 2010, Dr. Ted Rummel, a surgeon from Missouri, US, thought his career was done for after a blood-filled cyst on his spine burst, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. However, the orthopaedic surgeon was working his magic again after a year of intense rehab.
"One of my first thoughts was, 'Oh my gosh, my life as I know it was erased,'" he said. "Who you are out of the O.R. is gone and you have to redefine yourself."
And he did redefine himself, but in a positive way. He soon realised that he could get back to work, so he pressed on to regain his fitness to operate again. Now, he’s able to perform procedures on patients' hands, elbows, feet, knees and ankles from his sitting wheelchair. To operate on shoulders, he gets strapped into an upright chair.
2. Mountaineer who broke his spine but still made it to med schoolIn January 2001, Daniel Strother, had sat for the entrance exams at St George’s Hospital medical school in London. A month later, just before he was due for a follow-up interview, Strother, a keen mountaineer, was climbing Ben Nevis in Scotland with his girlfriend when his rope gave way and he fell six metres on to hard ice, breaking his spine.
It would take another year, after six months in recovery a spinal injuries unit, before Strother was finally well enough to go for the interview. Despite the setback, Strother remained confident about being a doctor.
He admits, “I'm not going to be an orthopaedic surgeon, or in accident and emergency, am I? But I would think I could do general practice. The problem is as much about established attitudes as it is about an individual's abilities."
Two years later, 23 year-old Strother, in a wheelchair, was a first-year medic at St George’s.
3. Post-polio medical student fights for postgraduate degreeDr Nazrin Ansari was stricken with polio when she was two years-old later on, suffers from post-polio paralysis in her left leg. But now, the 26 year-old doctor from India has staggered painfully past hurdles, beating the odds of poverty and physical disability to pass the MBBS exam.
But another setback occurred when Nazrin learnt that she would require certification about the percentage of her physical disability.
Unfortunately, her hopes were dashed when the All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIIPMR) delivered the shocking verdict that she was 86% disabled, thereby disqualifying her. The Medical Council of India only allows doctors with less than 70% disability to pursue postgraduate degrees.
Nevertheless, Nazrin was persistent to achieve her dream and filed a petition in court. Two days after that, Nazrin was granted admission on the basis of her performance in the entrance examinations, like any other candidate. Nazrin is now looking forward to pursuing radiology in one of the major civic hospitals of the city.
4. Living with disability steered a young doctor to a specialtyShortly after starting medical school, Hammad Aslam was in a car crash that left him paralysed and forced him to postpone his enrolment by a year. Nonetheless, he spent the year preparing for med school, working out at a local gym and doing outpatient therapy at a rehabilitation centre at Atlanta.
Afterwards, Aslam moved to Athens to study medicine where a new medical campus of Medical College of Georgia was opened. Life was not easy for him though. “School was tough. I was living alone again and starting med school only a year after my accident,” he said.
“In addition to the rigors of med school, I was also still coming to terms with my injuries and my new life. I was very overwhelmed.” Even so, he graduated in 2014, and was the only one who rolled across the stage in a wheelchair instead of walking like his classmates did.
While he was undergoing treatments, he was impressed by the exceptional rehabilitation physicians involved in his care. That was when he decided to specialise in physical medicine and rehabilitation himself.
5. The deaf doctor who inspires across the globeDr. Carlyn Stern, a Brighton physician, drives a car with “DEAF DOC” personalised license plates. Additionally, she doesn’t use a receptionist at her solo family medicine practice, and patients press a button on the waiting room wall as they come in.
When they do, Dr Stern introduces herself and explains that she’s deaf, but she communicates easily with her patients. To understand the patients, Dr. Stern lip-reads as they speak and during their conversation, and she would pause at times to type notes into her laptop. Whenever her hands are free, she signs; otherwise, the only indication that she’s deaf is her distinctive speech pattern.
According to Dr Stern: "I don't think they think of me as deaf. That kind of falls to the wayside as long as communication is happening."
Besides being a role model to medical students, Dr Stern also keeps herself busy with consulting medical groups, associations and agencies about accessible health care. Those visits have taken her as far away as China. MIMS
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