Deaf medical resident path becoming ‘amazing physician’

Summarized by Caitlin Aurigemma, staff writer

For Dr. Jessica Dunkley who was born in a deaf family in Toronto and grew up in Vancouver, her dreams of becoming a doctor are finally coming true.

Dunkley, who is the first deaf doctor trained at the University of Alberta is now experiencing her first year of residency at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Alberta, Canada where she hopes to spend the rest of her time.

As she tells reporter Tyler Dawson, “I’m really interested in educating related to health for the deaf community because they lack access to that information. That’s because most information is not available in sign language. I’m really interested in providing access to them” (Dawson, Edmonton Journal).

Dunkley, who is both fluent in American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language as well as having the ability to read lips and speak. Although she does wear a hearing aid, when with patients Dunkley uses an interpreter since background sounds can make it difficult for her to hear all everything within a conversation.

“A lot of people have never worked with a resident who uses a sign language interpreter, so it’s not really challenge, it’s just a new environment,” Dunkley tells Dawson.

Though Dunkley has found success within her career that was not always the case as she had many obstacles to face in her studies and residency. For instance, neither Alberta Health Services nor the University of Alberta have had a deaf doctor before so the use of sign language interpreters was an initial problem both institutions faced in accommodating Dunkley.

Dunkley also had the additional challenge of having to explain her deafness and use of sign language interpreters to patients. However, as Dr. Melanie Lewis, associate dean of learner affairs in the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine and dentistry explains, patients have been very open and welcoming to Dunkley.

As Dunkley continues to tear down barriers, people such as Miles believe that she will go far within her medical career saying that her deafness in no way distracts from her extraordinary skill as a doctor.

Read the full story here.

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