Spotlight Series #4

This is the fourth 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.


Jessica Dunkley, MD

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

I am a family physician and 5th year dermatology resident physician in Canada. My path to medicine began with a degree in Physical Therapy where my practice kindled my passion to pursue medicine.  During my journey, I also obtained a Masters in Health Science in Clinical Epidemiology to solidify my prospects in academic medicine in the future.

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 severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss and use one hearing aid.  I use ASL and spoken English. I grew up in an ASL home environment with my family.

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

Because of my involvement in the Deaf community, it was naturally apparent in my application that I was Deaf.  The extensive work and volunteer experience I began to amass at a young age was a strong asset in my applications whether it was related to school or work.  In hindsight, it actually worked in my favour.

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

I used various resources in university ranging from ASL/English interpreters to CART, remote CART, note-takers and tutoring services.  My preference shifted over the years as my academic responsibilities evolved over the years. I also sought out how other people designed what they required to help guide me in tailoring what worked best for me.  

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

There is always something to take away from how other people have succeeded in their journey and you will be surprised how you advocate for yourself is sometimes in parallel with other people you have never met.  It is reassuring to know that you are on the right path, not alone and to believe in what is best for yourself.

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

I had the opportunity to locum at many different doctor’s offices as a family physician to give me an idea of what office layout and type of staff best suited my needs.  They ranged from how I was able to communicate with the MOA (Medical Office Assistant) in the given office layout to the positions of the stools and computers within the exam rooms.

Any funny or inspirational stories?

Stryker masks, which has its resemblance to a biohazard suit, is commonly used by orthopedic surgeons when they are dealing with flying material in the OR.  During medical school I was hoping to see this mask used in my obstetrics and gynecology rotation during my introduction to this specialty. The attending staff wanted to have a meeting to debrief about this suit they were going to use.  Resistance was rampant in the room among the attending staff, in particular about the risk of contamination of using this suit vs using a hair cover and mask when they would have to reach above their head to adjust the lighting over the field.  An OB/GYN resident quipped in to correct them that the Stryker suit was indeed sterile, even more so than wearing a hair piece and mask. Silence fell in the room. They agreed to use the Stryker masks in the OR during my rotation.