Spotlight Series #1

This is the first of a series of spotlight articles that will be posted on the blog every month until the conference in June. This spotlight series will highlight a deaf or hard of hearing healthcare professional and AMPHL member who has found success in their field and continues to break down barriers.


Marissa Clopper, PA-C

Tell us about your aspirations and field of study. What are you doing now?

I am a Physician Assistant working at Maryland School for the Deaf Student Health Center and currently in my sixth year working there. I work 2nd shift, assisting residential students with any health issues they may have and providing health education. Aside from my job, I am on the AMPHL Board of Directors and responsible for the Mentorship Committee where I match mentees to mentors. I also have volunteered doing some health education filming for (formerly I am eager to continue being a health advocate for all patients.


What kind of hearing loss do you have and what is your preferred and primary communication method (e.g., signed communication, voiced/lip-reading)?

I have bilateral sensorineural hearing loss since birth; I was born premature and became deaf due to an antibiotic--Gentamicin. My preferred and primary communication method is American Sign Language (ASL). While I do ASL and speech with my parents, I do Spoken English, lip-reading, and written communication with my extended family as well as the general public.


In your application for graduate school, did you reveal your hearing loss? 

Yes, I did reveal my hearing loss when applying to graduate school. In order to apply to PA schools, it was required to submit a narrative through CASPA about why I desired to become a PA. It was here that I mentioned my deafness (cause of) as one of the reasons I became interested in the medical field and desired to be an advocate for Deaf/HOH patients.


What resources and accommodations did you use while receiving your training?

I utilized ASL interpreters and class note-takers during lectures. I also had ASL interpreters provided during my clinical rotations. Networking through AMPHL also helped especially for suggestions for a visual stethoscope to purchase to use during my clinicals. 


Do you have any advice regarding resources and accommodations used during your training?

It is important to self-advocate for any accommodations you may need. Check with your school’s disability services and request what you need in order to succeed in your program. Only you know what you need and others can’t tell you any different.


Did you set up your office/clinic/practice with any particular accommodations?

Since I work at a school for the deaf, communication is ASL-friendly and a videophone is available in the office. I utilize my own visual stethoscope when needed for examining a patient.


Any funny or inspirational stories? 

I remember several memorable moments during my clinical rotations. One was during my cardiology rotation in the hospital. The team I rounded with, including the attending, initially did not think I could do the job. However, I showed them my visual stethoscope and via my ASL interpreter, I was able to interact with patients. In the end, the team was impressed. Second, I was on a family medicine rotation and saw an elderly Spanish-speaking woman with a history of diabetes and hypertension. She was present with her daughter and was having pain in her right calf for a week. The woman had varicose veins but when I went to palpate her calf and I noted a long palpable cord. I immediately recalled what I learned in class—that it was a sign of a deep venous thrombus—a blood clot in the leg. With the approval of my preceptor, I sent the woman for an ultrasound. Several days later, my preceptor told me he heard from her daughter that they found a blood clot and had to admit the woman to the hospital for treatment, and she thanked me. So I felt pleased that I made a correct diagnosis and was able to truly benefit someone!

Any last words of wisdom or advice?

I encourage Deaf/HOH individuals interested in the medical field to pursue their dreams as I have! Do not give up and network with other ‘pioneers’ for advice.