Disability and medicine seminar, March 29


CMU student walks toward the Health Professions building on campus on Feb. 13. 

A multi-disciplinary program geared at increasing education and training for health care students with a special focus on patients with disabilities held the first in a five-part series of public seminars Wednesday. 

The Healthcare Education Engaging Disability Studies (HEEDS) program is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary effort to educate health professionals on providing better care for people with disabilities, according to university archives. Led by the Central Michigan University College of Medicine, in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Services, Special Olympics Michigan and the Disability Network of Mid Michigan, the effort is funded by a $130,000 grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. 

Wednesday marked the first in a five-part Disability and Medicine Seminar Series conducted as part of HEEDS through April 12. Co-principal investigator Shay Dawson said will be the first program like it in the nation. 

According to Dawson, who works in the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Department, the lecture will discuss how medical providers can work with people who have various physical and intellectual disabilities.

“Models of disability are essentially the lens with which you look at disability," Dawson said. "What we’re trying to do is help students understand that seeing things from a social model of disability is quite helpful – seeing your patient through more of a social lens, versus a medical model.”

According to CMU's website, “students will be challenged to see the patient as a unique person with individual needs.”

Dawson discussed how there are disparities in the healthcare system today. He also said recent studies show a lot of physicians are not confident when working with patients who have disabilities. 

“There’s really almost no specific training in healthcare settings and medical schools related specifically to working with people with physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities,” Dawson said. 

The seminar is the first of a five part series on disability and medicine. Each session can be attended either in-person or virtually via WebEx, and students can register for the event at CMU's website. Those attending in-person will be provided lunch.

The next four events will take place on the following dates:

  • Monday, April 3, 12 to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 5, 12 to 1 p.m.
  • Monday, April 10, 12 to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 12, 12 to 1 p.m.

Students who complete all five sessions (in-person or virtually) will receive a Disability and Medicine Certificate.

The HEEDS research is led by principal investigator and College of Medicine Associate Prof. Neli Ragina with the support of co-principal investigators Ariel Cascio and Dr. Sarah Yonder, both faculty with the College of Medicine, and Dawson. 

Editor's note: This story was updated on March 29 to incorporate the full name of the HEEDS program and the investigate team conducting the research and to clarify that the seminar series is part of the HEEDS work. Incomplete information was provided to the reporter.