Reynolds speaks at GU/MedStar research and education symposium on how to improve care for disabled patients

On Monday, April 29, 2024 KIE Senior Scholar Joel Michael Reynolds, PhD, MA, spoke at the 2024 MedStar Health-Georgetown University Research and Education Symposium at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center as part of GUMC’s Center for Innovation in Leadership in Education [CENTILE] Colloquium. His talk was entitled “Improving Quality and Equity of Care for Disabled Patients through Better Medical Education about Disability.”

The Center for Innovation in Leadership in Education (CENTILE) is an interprofessional community of educators that drives innovation, excellence and scholarship in education at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC). The annual Colloquium brings together educators to share innovations and research in health professions education.

Read the full event program and the summary of Dr. Reynolds’s presentation below:

TITLE: Improving Quality and Equity of Care for Disabled Patients through Better Medical Education about Disability

Joel Michael Reynolds, PhD

BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: Healthcare in the U.S.A. is at a watershed moment concerning disabled people. Last April, the NIH’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research hosted the first federally funded conference that identified ableism as a problem in medicine. In just the last year, multiple top medical journals published perspective and viewpoint pieces on the same topic. Then, in September, the most significant event since the 1990 passage of the ADA for disabled people’s health as it relates to U.S. governmental agencies occurred: the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) designated people with disabilities as a health disparity population. The data that led to this designation suggests that a significant driver of disability health disparities is inequity in and lower quality of care for disabled patients. In this talk I present current findings and best practices to educate clinicians about disability in ways that promise to improve the quality and equity and care of disabled patients. I discuss the three primary educational targets suggested by medical educators to date: (i) disability cultural and conceptual competency, (ii) disability health disparity instruction, and (iii) disability advocacy training. In closing, I outline the leading approaches to embedding these targets across basic and continuing medical education curricula.

METHODS/INNOVATIONS: My method is based on qualitative and interpretive approaches from the social sciences. I synthesize research across clinical medicine, medical education, population health, and philosophy of disability, and I translate findings into assessable educational approaches to improve quality and equity of care for disabled patients.

RESULTS/BENEFITS/LESSONS LEARNED: The results provide actionable steps for healthcare systems and clinicians across specialties to improve education concerning disability and, in doing so, address one of the drivers of disability health disparities.


[1] “Ableism in clinical and medical research.” National Institutes of Health. April 27-28, 2023. (new window)

2 Valdez RS; Swenor BK. Structural ableism—essential steps for abolishing disability injustice. N Engl J Med 2023; 388:1827-1829. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2302561.

Anderson, K; Esquenazi, A; Hall, JP, Havercampe, SM; Moore, CL; Zazove, P. Report from the advisory committee to the director working group on diversity—subgroup on individuals with disabilities. December 1, 2022. (new window)