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Medical students face long hours of study and plenty of sleepless nights, but Sam Wu and Pat Tsang aren’t complaining about their time at the School of Medicine. What they remember is an education that prepared them well.
Tsang (CAS’92, GRS’92, MED’92) recalls that MED “opened my mind to pathology” as a career focus. Born in Hong Kong, she was the only international student in her entering class. For Wu (CAS’87, GRS’90, MED’92, SPH’92), who contracted polio as a youngster and who uses a wheelchair, MED “changed my life, gave me my career, and brought me my soul mate.” The two, who were married after graduation, recently established the Sam Wu, MD, and Patricia Tsang, MD, Medical Students with Disabilities Equality Fund at MED.
“Back in the day,” recalls Wu, “I needed things I didn’t even know I needed at first. For some of my fieldwork, I needed a car with hand controls.” He also needed a motorized cart for getting around the hospital during those long hours of rounds.
Wu remembers his first meeting with the people at MED who would become his mentors and teachers. “When I first enrolled, William McNary, then dean of students, invited all the chairs of the departments to meet with me,” he says. “Imagine: me in a room with all the clinical chairs. And they all wanted to know how they could help me. Even now, 20-odd years later, this still makes a huge impression on me.”
Today, both Wu and Tsang work for Geisinger Health System, where Tsang is medical director of two clinical testing labs and Wu is a practicing physiatrist, a physician who specializes in treating patients with disabilities. “The medical school gave us both so much,” Wu says, “and this is a big reason we were so excited to be able to honor it, its dean, and the incredible work being done there. Our goal has been to start a fund that could help fill some of the gaps that disabled students experience, to provide added support for equipment when there is a demonstrated need—to buy that specialized stethoscope for the blind medical student—in effect, to equalize medical training for disabled students and lower the threshold to getting an excellent medical education.
“We want this fund to help other students have the same amazing experiences Pat and I had.”