Last month, the Medical College of Wisconsin–Central Wisconsin Campus (MCW-CW) and Special Olympics Wisconsin delivered a training day of caring for and treating patients with intellectual disabilities to year-one and year-two medical students.
MCW-CW medical students Haley Daigle and Dana Warwick organized the event as part of their Pathways Project. After months of collaboration and preparation, a one-hour lecture was presented on communication strategies, health disparities, and resources available to people with intellectual disabilities as well as their health care providers. Following the lecture, the medical students and professors engaged with an athlete panel of SOWI athletes consisting of Cole Cleworth (Wisconsin Rapids), Danny Cox (Menomonie), Lexi Galarowicz (Menomonie), and Heather Holland (Marshfield), as well as long-time SOWI volunteer/coach and retired special education teacher Deb Moore-Gruenloh (Rudolph). The athletes shared their personal health stories, how they like to be treated by their physician, and provided other advice for the medical students. To end the day, the medical students partnered up to practice clinical encounters with people with intellectual disabilities.
“I think the training provided to these student doctors is going to make a huge impact on the way they interact with and care for their future patients with disabilities,” Daigle said. “Not only were their eyes opened to the disparities of care and the needs of this population but they were provided with tried and true strategies and techniques to help them overcome barriers and build quality and healthy relationships. I have high hopes for the future of this session and disability medicine in general.”
Dr. Michael Clark, SOWI Clinical Director and longtime Special Olympics Wisconsin volunteer, echoed the need for this type of training at a fundamental educational level. “Medical school curricula typically address intellectual disabilities in the medical context of how the underlying condition affects physiology,” Dr. Clark said. “The unique aspects of this training is that it focused on how an intellectual disability impacts the ability of the person to interact with the healthcare system and received needed and appropriate care. It also reviewed appropriate communication strategies to maximize the interactions with a person with an intellectual disability.”
To complete the inclusive health experience, the medical students will be volunteering their time at the upcoming MedFest event at State Bowling on December 3 at Weston Lanes outside of Wausau. MedFest is a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program that facilitates the required standard sports physical examination for current and prospective athletes at no cost to the athlete. The Special Olympics General Rules require that all athletes who want to participate in Special Olympics must be examined by a physician or trained medical professional.
This addition to curriculum is monumental in the path to reduce health disparities in people with intellectual disabilities. MCW-CW plans to continue to provide this training to future students, year after year. SOWI hopes this is just the beginning of inclusive health trainings for healthcare students and professionals across the state in hopes to provide better treatment and care for those with intellectual disabilities.
If you or someone you know works in the healthcare field and is interested in providing an inclusive health training to your students and/or staff, please reach out to Brittany Hoegh, SOWI Senior Director of Health Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.