BY WENDY EASTMAN, M.D.
When I was considering applying to medical school, I had serious doubts if it was even possible with my profound hearing loss. I sought advice from many different people. Two close college friends responded very differently. One said, “Of course you can do it!” The other, who was a student at Harvard Medical School, seriously doubted me.
Then I met FIVE deaf and hard-of-hearing physicians and veterinarians. Wow! I was at a gathering at Danielle Rastetter’s apartment back in 1999 before AMPHL existed. The five were all a few years ahead of me in different stages of school, training, and careers. Each of them had similar challenges with hearing loss: keeping up with the fast paced lectures, surviving the clerkships and training, interviewing, and communicating with patients. I knew medical training would be hard regardless of hearing loss or not. The five really inspired me to apply. I was accepted to medical school and these five went on to form the first nonprofit board of AMPHL, and Danielle was the first president.
I eagerly went to the first conference in 2000 to see these five again. I missed the second conference in 2002 due to medical school conflicts. Since then, I have been to every single one. The conferences have grown tremendously—from 60 to 150+ people, and from one day to three days. Through AMPHL, I have met so many people from different healthcare specialties across the country and around the world. The first people I met are now established in their careers and have published, traveled, gotten married, and started families. I brought two of my babies to conferences with me. Now I leave them home with Daddy and go away for the weekend!
Not too long ago, one of the five told me, “I am done with school and training, I don’t need AMPHL anymore. If I go to the conference, it would be purely social.” I disagree. I love going to the conferences. I still learn at every conference and meet inspiring people. The younger students are going through school in a new era of technology and healthcare. I get great ideas from them on how to utilize technology in my practice. I learn new facts from my AMPHL colleagues who are in other specialties, private practice, hospital medicine, or healthcare management. Even further outside of the box, I have had conversations where I learned tidbits on parenting, personal finance, promotions, and retirement. I don’t always pick up on these facts in hearing gatherings, so it is nice to have these conversations with my deaf medical colleagues.
The AMPHL conferences are very unique, and not like any other medical conference. Here I feel comfortable discussing the hard questions. I know my friends and colleagues really understand. The five have expanded to many more mentors and mentees that I have met at the conferences.
I am really looking forward to seeing my AMPHL Family again soon—June 9-11, 2017, in Rochester, New York. See you there!