EDITED BY WENDY EASTMAN, M.D.
We have all received and given great advice. I asked several AMPHL colleagues to share “The Best Advice” they received when premed, in med school, during training, or even after training that helped them through the thick and thin. The advice may or may not be related to hearing loss. Good advice can be positive or negative, but impactful and helpful. Read to hear some great advice:
Philip Zazove, MD – Family Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan
I don't recall a "best advice." Rather I recall two things:
- The belief my parents instilled in me that I can do whatever I want
- Mentors in medical school, both faculty and classmates. The former supported me in terms of giving me positive feedback and treating me like I belong and not putting me down because I was deaf. The latter, my classmates, treated me like everyone else, which made me realize I wasn't an imposter but belonged and they helped me with things I missed.
Editor comment: Keep in touch with your mentors! They love hearing from you even long after you leave!
Jaime Wilson, Ph.D., LP – Neuropsychology, Tacoma, Washington
I remember as if it were yesterday when my Director of Clinical Training (DCT) came and spoke to our admitted class of ten doctoral candidates. It was our first day of what would be several years of an endurance race. The DCT looked us each in the eyes and said, "Today you begin your journey of a thousand miles. You do not realize it now, but the years will become months, the months become days, the days become minutes, and the minutes become seconds..."
We were all transfixed on the DCT's words. "If I ask anything of you today, it would be to remember your passion and why you chose to pursue this path." He continued, "Without passion, your odds of success are minimal. You will either struggle with your studies, clinical rotations, or career. You will burn out completely."
It is passion that has driven me to where I am today. Without passion, I would not have been able to overcome the hurdles associated with the rigors of pursuing a healthcare career. Nor would I have been able to surmount the unique obstacles that a hearing loss brings. Passion is a requirement for creativity, endurance, and the single step that begins any worthwhile journey.
Editor comment: Physician burnout is a hot topic these days. Remember to follow your heart when picking a specialty and to nurture your professional and personal passions.
Sarah Hein, BS, MS, BSN, RN – Nurse, Royal Oak, Michigan
I think the best advice you gave me was at the Ann Arbor conference when you were rather bold and blunt. You told me to start being more professional and acting like a professional. That I was entering a tough field and had to act and look sharp to succeed. At the time, I was a little hurt by the advice because I thought I was doing okay in that aspect... but now that I look back... the advice propelled me to work hard to make a good image for myself. The medical profession is REALLY hard to get into as a Deaf/HH person. When you exude confidence and are extremely professional, administrators and doctors tend to show more respect toward you, even though they have their own biases against your hearing loss.
Editor comment: Delivering and receiving advice is hard. It is a practiced skill to be a good mentor and give advice effectively. On the flip side, it can be hard to receive constructive criticism. I’ve been on both sides.
Derek Braun, Ph.D. – Biology Professor at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.
The best advice I ever got was from two AMPHL colleagues and it was AFTER I finished graduate school, but it made perfect sense in retrospect. “Essentially, it was to disclose that you are deaf upfront because, after all, why would you ever want to enter a program that doesn’t really want you as a deaf person?”
Editor comment: I agree in full disclosure of hearing loss to avoid surprises.
Zach Featherstone – Medical student at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, Yakima, WA
Some of the best I've received so far:
"Go to AMPHL conference, especially as a pre-med, and you'll gain so much from it, especially the support you'll especially need in the upcoming years.”
"Choose your interpreters wisely. They are a reflection of who you are."
"Best question to ask yourself when choosing specialties is to ask yourself, 'Can I see myself doing this in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? Will I be happy doing it all of those years?' And you'll see how quickly it may change your mindset about choosing specialties."
"When being interviewed by potential employers/medical schools/residency directors, you need to address the elephant in the room and that is your deafness, so when you bring it up, ask them specifically, 'what concerns do you have' and address the question."
Editor comment: Most hearing providers have never worked with a deaf provider and just cannot imagine what it is like. During an interview, ask them what their concerns are, then use this opportunity to educate them and explain how you do it.
Nghi Lu, MD – Radiology, Palm Springs, CA
Probably the best "advice" I got was in undergraduate (premed) from a premedical advisor. When she found out I was deaf, she said, "I don't think you will get into medical school. I would not even try if I were you." That was certainly not the type of support one would expect from a premedical advisor. This was before 2000, and a doctor who is Deaf/deaf/HOH is even rarer compared to now; it was probably inconceivable to her. I just silently told myself that the advisor didn't know any better--AND she didn't know me and what I am capable of. I resolved to prove her wrong. So instead of accepting her "advice", I actually just used it to motivate myself even more. The lesson in this is: You have control of your actions and reactions to any situations (good or bad) and that makes all the difference in the outcome(s). Despite having a premedical advisor who did not support me and pretty much feeling alone in my premed journey (this was before AMPHL), because I just kept on trying/doing/going/etc., I eventually ended up getting accepted into my top three choices for medical school, which included a top-tier school.
So if/when others underestimate you, don't underestimate yourself.
Editor Comment: Being told “you can’t do it” makes us all fight harder! Now we have our AMPHL network to turn to for support and advice.
Chad Ruffin, MD - Otology Research Fellow, Indiana University
Training specific: A family practice attending taught us to listen to how patients made us feel. If we physicians become anxious during the patient encounter, it may suggest anxiety or depression with the patient or hint at misunderstanding with the treatment plan on some level. Regardless, it’s worth exploring further. Over the years, I’ve noticed great docs, including surgeons in specialties that stereotypically do not attend to details outside their specialty, exhibit this behavior. The best physicians ensure the whole patient receives good care.
Editor Comment: Most of us deaf people have a 6th sense in reading peoples’ body language!
Kate Salvatore, MD - Psychiatry, Princeton, NJ
In my profession, the thing that always pops into my head is “hearing and listening are two different things.” So true, especially in Psychiatry!
To get through medical school, it’s literally just one foot in front of other! Every deadline, every test, every board exam….
I really liked medical school. Having the support of parents, good friends and two deans made a huge difference. The two deans made me feel like I belonged and encouraged me to keep going. But by the end, I had to learn to advocate for myself. There was an anatomy professor who was obnoxious and berating to medical students. I felt like he was trying to derail my career. I walked into his office one day and told him nothing was going to stop me from graduating. And that I had concrete poured around my feet to keep me at the school. In the end, you have to really want to be a doctor despite the hearing loss. And if you let the hearing loss define you too much, it will get in the way. It’s a huge piece of who you are but it’s not everything.
Editor Comment: We really do have to stick up for ourselves! Find your allies and mentors that will support you no matter what.
Marissa Clopper, PA - Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) Student Health Center
I remember during my primary care rotation, I mentioned that my question(s) may be stupid to ask. My preceptor said there are no dumb questions and to ask any kind of question even if simple, easy ones. So that made me think it is best to ask questions even if to double-check to be certain since we are all always learning.
Editor Comment: Asking questions shows that you are really engaged and eager to learn. If you remain quiet, it can give the wrong impression of being disinterested and inattentive.
Wendy Eastman, MD - Child Neurology, Spokane, WA
When I was applying for Pediatric Residency during my fourth year in medical school, I remember spending many hours talking with my residency advisor. She asked me all the hard questions, “How will you run the codes when you can’t hear everyone talking?” “How will you handle the parent phone calls?” “How will you answer the pages?” “What happens if your interpreter is sick and you have no interpreter for the day?” It was hard and uncomfortable for me at times. I really thought she would not accept me if I applied to her program. In retrospect, she REALLY prepared me for my interviews and I matched at my first choice residency program. And she REALLY prepared me for the tough real-life situations that do happen once in a great while.
Editor Comment: I can’t comment on my own advice, ha!
Wendy Eastman, M.D., is a board-certified pediatric neurologist currently practicing in Washington State. She was born deaf, wore bilateral hearing aids, and grew up in the Boston suburbs. She went to an oral deaf program through 3rd grade, then mainstreamed full-time in fourth grade. She graduated from Dartmouth College, served two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, South America speaking and lip-reading Spanish, worked at Harvard Medical School Channing Laboratory as a microbiology lab technician, then went back to Dartmouth for Medical School. While doing a Family Medicine rotation on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Tuba City, AZ, she fell in love with the Southwest and went west for her training. She completed her Pediatric Residency and Child Neurology Fellowship at Primary Children’s Medical Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. She used CART and sign language interpreters through medical school and had a team of interpreters through her residency and fellowship training. She is also a past-president of AMPHL (2013-2016) and a long-time member.