“You don’t look like a medical student”
Discrimination has been an experience I’ve somehow learnt to live with throughout everyday life. I’ve experienced it before my career, during my career, and with the systems and social perspectives the way they are at the moment, I will probably experience an element of it in the future too.
My name is Alexandra and I am a medical student, just over halfway to qualifying as a Doctor. I’m also deafblind. On my first day on clinical placement, a senior doctor sat me down, within a few minutes of knowing me, and said: “imagine if you are a patient. Would you want a blind, disabled doctor treating you? Absolutely not!” I was then sent home. It was only very shortly afterwards that I was approached by another doctor. They asked me why I was holding the patient’s cane. I had to explain that, the cane, was in fact mine. With a look of evident disgust, the doctor then instructed me “not to touch any of the patients”, in front of the other medical students, nearby staff, the patients, and their relatives. I felt disgusting.
This is a common occurrence in my day to day as a medical student, and, it’s gotten to a point where I have to frequently weigh up whether to accept it’s just another typical day of discrimination, and when it’s something I have to put out there, stand my ground. Because, fact is, it’s not okay.
I’m now developing and leading a project, campaign, called ‘Faces of the NHS’ throughout the UK. It’s a photography series whereby I’m taking portraitures of all sorts of NHS employees, to capture the stories and emotions behind their faces, and to show that we’re all different, and that we should celebrate that diversity – not stereotype each other based on their background, looks, ability or disability.
2 summers ago I visited the US, in search of deaf and blind doctors, to see how they practiced. I met 6 doctors in total, stretching from New York to San Francisco, and they alone were the ultimate inspiration and proof that actually, yes, I can be a doctor despite my disabilities. I hope that, by continuing to raise awareness of our abilities, rather than inabilities, and through doing ‘Faces of the NHS’, I can help to eventually change social perceptions of healthcare careers and disability for good. I may not have as much eyesight as most, but I without doubt have more insight than many…
You can watch my video on ‘Faces of the NHS’ at http://bma.org.uk/facesoftheNHS and follow my blog at https://setting-sights.blog