Faculty Spotlight

In Co-Authored Paper, Dean Ouellette Offers Alternative to Med School Standards for Applicants with Disabilities

Alicia Ouellette ’94

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A new paper co-authored by Albany Law School President & Dean Alicia Ouellette ’94 is confronting the policies — known as "organic" technical standards — that many medical schools use to evaluate the qualifications of students with disabilities.

The article, "Medical Schools' Willingness to Accommodate Medical Students with Sensory and Physical Disabilities: Ethical Foundations of a Functional Challenge to 'Organic' Technical Standards," was published in the October 2016 issue of AMA Journal of Ethics (Volume 18, Number 10: 993-1002). In it, the authors point to medical schools' current technical standards as "a critical barrier to matriculation" of individuals with a disability, who enroll at a rate of less than one percent despite making up about 19 percent of the noninstitutionalized population of the United States.

They argued that instead of organic technical standards, which "require students to demonstrate certain physical, cognitive, behavioral, and sensory abilities without assistance," medical schools should adopt functional technical standards that "focus on the students' abilities with or without the use of accommodations or assistive technologies."

"Medical schools … should focus on what students with disabilities can do, rather than what they cannot do, because these students further diversify the health care profession and improve our ability to care for an expanding population of patients with disabilities," the authors wrote, adding that functional technical standards would allow students with sensory and physical disabilities "to use rapidly developing, cutting-edge assistive technologies and accommodations to successfully perform essential tasks."

Dean Ouellette co-authored a related piece — a national study on medical schools' compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act — published in Academic Medicine earlier this year. She is the author of the book Bioethics and Disability: Toward a Disability-Conscious Bioethics (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Her research focuses on health law, disability rights, family law, children's rights, and human reproduction. She has authored numerous articles in academic journals such as the American Journal of Law and Medicine, the Hastings Center Report, the American Journal of Bioethics, the Hastings Law Journal, the Indiana Law Journal, and Oregon Law Review.

Dean Ouellette earned an A.B. at Hamilton College and a J.D. from Albany Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Albany Law Review.

Alicia Ouellette