The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has made clear its plans to advance equity and inclusion for doctors and medical students living with disability.


As part of these measures, the peak industry body has released a new position statement outlining the measures organisations, employers, medical schools and colleges need to undertake to remove barriers to participation in medicine.


The AMA said the measure was necessary because medical students and doctors with a disability, including those who have acquired a disability during training or as a fellow, report a variety of barriers to pursuing a career in medicines.


This often begins with entry into medical school and persists throughout medical training to fellowship and into employment, the organisation said. Issues can include a lack of reasonable adjustments, a lack of experience in providing accommodations and a lack of knowledge of both what is legally required and what is possible. 


AMA President Professor Steve Robson said inclusive training and work environments together with fair selection, organisational support, flexibility and research are all needed to encourage and retain doctors and medical students into the profession. 


Inclusion in medicine is important for many reasons, such as creating a better health system for people with disability by embedding those with lived experience in it and ensuring the medical workforce mirrors the population they serve, he said.

Professor Robson said while one in six Australians had a disability, this was not reflected in the number of doctors or trainee doctors with a disability. 


“The AMA wants the health sector to be set up for inclusivity. Pathways to careers in medicine should adopt a strengths-based approach, focusing on abilities, knowledge and capacities rather than deficits.”


“We need to ensure our system breaks down the many barriers people with disability face, such as preconceived attitudes, bias about ability and varying approaches to application processes for selection into training,” he said.


Doctors with Disability Australia co-founder and former You magazine cover star Dr Dinesh Palipana, said building trust and an environment where disclosure of a disability would be treated with respect and from a strengths-based perspective was essential. 


Dr Palipana said providing accessible information and resources, and demystifying mandatory reporting and other processes can prevent individuals with disability from being discouraged from seeking support for fear of repercussions, discrimination, restricted from practice or reported.


“Disability inclusion increases our profession’s understanding of the experience and needs of so many Australians who have disability, benefiting both patients and the profession. But, there’s even more to it than that - research has demonstrated that a diverse workforce improves innovation and performance, and for a health system under pressure, this is a win-win scenario,” Dr Palipana said.  


Other recommendations in the new AMA policy include providing information and education at all levels to improve the understanding of workplace law relating to disability. 


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