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Inclusion for people with disabilities focus of Rochester medical conference

Brett Dahlberg


A conference focused on medical care for people with disabilities will come to Rochester this weekend.

The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry will host its annual meeting, bringing in presenters and attendees from across the country and abroad, said Stephen Sulkes, who is president of the academy and also a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Presenters will cover a wide range of difficult topics, from dementia in people with disabilities, to colonoscopies for adults who have intellectual disabilities, and the obstacles to accessing dental care faced by people with disabilities.

But many of the sessions will also focus on what presenters say are successes in the field.

Dr. Adriane Griffen oversees the National Center on Disability in Public Health. Her organization recently led a successful push for a resolution by the American Medical Association that recognizes people with disabilities as a “medically underserved population.”

“It’s changing the medical system in our country to include developmental disability,” Griffen said, explaining that her next push is to help medical schools include lessons on health care for people with disabilities in their curriculum.

“Often doctors don’t think they have the capability to work with this population,” Griffen said. “And of course that makes sense; they haven’t ever done it in their training.”

Dr. Maulik Trivedi will be leading a session discussing how telemedicine can prevent people with disabilities from ending up in the emergency room.

Trivedi, who is an emergency room physician and the chief strategy officer at telemedicine company StationMD, said that because primary care doctors often don’t feel like they can address the needs of patients with disabilities, they end up sending those patients to the emergency room even for conditions that are not emergencies.

The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry is holding its annual conference in Rochester this weekend.
Credit American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry
American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry
The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry is holding its annual conference in Rochester this weekend.

“We saw the need for a service that really would prevent that ER visit, because we found many times it really wasn’t necessary.”

Sulkes said the conference emphasizes including people with disabilities in medicine, both as patients and as medical professionals.

“When you’re a health care provider, you think you know what your patients need," Sulkes said. "But, until you actually ask them what they need, and what their goals are for health care, you end up working at cross-purposes, and people’s health doesn’t improve.”

That inclusion also has benefits for people who don’t have disabilities, said Sulkes.

“When we design things that work for people with developmental disabilities, we actually are making them work better for everybody.”


This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

Brett was the health reporter and a producer at WXXI News. He has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.