Deaf Strong Hospital
Deaf Strong Hospital (DSH), is an unique and visually entertaining role-reversal exercise for first-year medical students (2), is conducted annually in August. In this role-playing exercise, the medical students become "patients" who seek medical attention from "doctors," who are members of the local Deaf Community. Overcoming and understanding communication challenges are the main objectives of this exercise. Additionally, the medical students learn that culturally Deaf people do not view themselves as "disabled."
The students will be given a list of symptoms of various illnesses (fever, headache, various pains) and are instructed to go to the "Deaf Strong Hospital" that would be set up in the medical school, to receive care for their fictitious illnesses. Students will interact with Deaf volunteers who have been trained to act as physicians and other healthcare providers (pharmacists, dentists, etc.). The students will attempt to exchange scripted healthcare information with the volunteers without resorting to spoken English. They may use gestures, writing, sign language, or request an interpreter, if available. To view pictures of DSH, click here.
(2) The students are first-year medical students at the University of Rochester's School of Medicine & Dentistry (SMD). There are approximately 105 students entering medical school every year at SMD.
DSH was featured in a web-based story on CDC website. Click here for the story.
Deaf Strong Hospital was first created by a group of medical students in September 1998. These students were a part of an organization called "PAH-MD" (Promoting Awareness in Healthcare, Medical and Deaf), which views Deaf people as members of a linguistic minority, not as patients needing medical intervention to restore hearing. By pooling resources with the Deaf Wellness Center, DSH was conducted yearly from 1998 to 2002. In 2006, the Education & Training Committee of NCDHR reactivated DSH and facilitated the 8th DSH on September 5, 2006.
Percentage of UR medical students reporting "Strong Agree" and "Agree" to the evaluation question: "My DSH experience is likely to positively impact my attitudes and behavior in future interactions with patients who do not speak English".
2006: 95% (n = 98)
2007: 93% (n = 91)
2008: 96% (n = 100)
2009: 98% (n = 100)
2010: 100% (n = 101)
2011: Coming this August 26, 2011
To see the entire medical students' evaluation, click here.
Quotes from 1st year medical students:
"I feel this is a wonderful program and should be continued for yerars to come."
It was awesome - it allowed me to turn many of my experience overseas into understanding how to take care of deaf people and the daily challenges they experience - a connection I never realized before."
"The frustration you feel as a hearing person in a deaf person's world brings into sharp relief the need for patience and understanding when dealing with different individuals with different methods of communications."
"Where to learn American Sign Language?!? Immersion classes offered anywhere? The lecture was wonderful! The small group [debriefing] was VERY informative!"
Mathews JL, Parkhill AL, Schlehofer DA, Starr MJ, Barnett S. (2011). Role-reversal exercise with Deaf Strong Hospital to teach communication competency and cultural awareness. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 75(3): 53 Full text:
Richards J, Harmer L, Pollard P, Pollard R. Deaf Strong Hospital: an exercise in cross-cultural communication for first year medical students. J Univ Rochester Med Center. 1999;spring:5-7.
Volunteering for DSH:
If you are interested in volunteering for DSH, please send an email to Matthew Starr at NCDHR , or call him at: 585-286-2721 (Videophone).
Last Updated: 5/23/11