Accessible education: Medical School attracts students of all backgrounds

April 3, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

Michigan Medicine draws its strength from the diversity of its faculty, staff and students. Every individual’s unique background is filled with people and events that have inspired a career devoted to helping patients and families.

For second-year med student Molly Fausone, her journey into medicine began more than a decade ago during her recovery from a traumatic neck injury. Today, she is committed to leaving her mark on an industry she knows all too well.

The accident 

In the summer of 2005, Molly was at the beach in western Michigan with family and friends when she dove into a lake and broke her neck.

The injury left her paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of her hands. She uses a power wheelchair for mobility.

“It was a really difficult time for me, being a 15-year-old who was used to being a high-caliber athlete,” Molly said. “All of a sudden, I couldn’t walk.”

The accident left her with a new perspective and, eventually, a new career goal.

“It’s so important for those who work in a hospital to understand how mentally tough it is for patients and their families to go through life-changing experiences,” Molly said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to pursue medicine. In addition to my love of biology, I realized that I can play a role in making sure providers offer the best care possible in a thoughtful, empathetic way.”

The Michigan Difference

After graduating from college in 2012, Molly looked at high-level medical programs around the country. Her focus was singular: she needed to find a school that best fit not just her intellectual interests, but her physical needs as well.

“From the beginning of the application process, the U-M Medical School was phenomenal and open to working with me,” Molly said.

“Every school has technical standards, which are basic minimum requirements you must meet to enter the program,” Molly said. The standards include mental competencies and physical and fine motor skills.

“The administration called me immediately after I was admitted to discuss these standards and how they could provide accommodations to help me meet them or how they could be adapted,” Molly said.

Additionally, the administration reached out to clerkship directors in surgery and ob/gyn to get their perspective on Molly’s skillset, as those would be two of the most challenging clerkships for her. Finally, administrators helped Molly find accessible housing on campus.

“It was clear that they wanted me to come to Ann Arbor and thrive as part of this community,” she said. “And they didn’t demand that I had the answers to what many of the specific accommodations would look like immediately. We all took a wait-and-see approach.”

An engaging environment

Now well into her second year, Molly has loved her time at U-M.

“It’s so much fun being somewhere where classmates are so engaged — each of us learning something different from each other,” Molly said. “Medicine is this awesome collision of science, interpersonal relationships and service.”

And the accommodations have worked out extremely well — from having seats removed in lecture halls so she can sit in the front rather than the back to having an occupational therapist available to help make custom equipment and problem solve as needed.

Molly doesn’t yet know what specialty she will pursue; she just knows her past experiences will help her relate to patients on a personal level.

“All doctors go into the fields that best suit them, both physically and in terms of their intellectual curiosity,” Molly said. “So I’ll do the same. And I’m learning from the best to make sure future patients get the care and support they need during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

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