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Physical Disabilities and the Study and Practice of Medicine

Carlos J. M. Martini, MD, MPH, MSc
JAMA. 1987;257(21):2956-2957. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390210104036.
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Whether the number of physicians with functional limitations is about 18 000 as suggested by Zondlo1 or close to 80 000 as indicated by the last figures from the National Institute of Handicapped Research,2 the fact remains that a large number of the 552 000 physicians in the United States suffer from impaired motor skills.

The true number may never be known. As Cathell3 reminded us in 1924 in his Book on the Physician Himself, "medical men often conceal the fact that they are sickly or that their health is failing, as much and as long as possible," since they remember the old adage, "Do not trust to a sick physician." This perception may still keep physicians from revealing disabling conditions that they may be able to conceal.

What matters, of course, is not the total number of physicians with physically disabling conditions, but the understanding of


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