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Deaf Is.. Career Examples... Doctor

Dr. Scott Smith

My name is Dr. Scott Smith, and I am a physician, a doctor of medicine (M.D.).

More specifically, I am a pediatrician, a doctor for children.

Even more specifically, I am currently a Fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the Center for Children with Special Needs (CCSN) at the Tufts-New England Medical Center (NEMC).

Why I became a doctor

I always loved science. When I went to college, I realized that I loved to work with people. When I worked at a 4-H Deaf Camp in North Carolina during summers in college, I realized I really loved working with children. So I tried to find a field that combine my love for science and people, and the field of medicine made the most sense for me.

When Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 (when I was 20-year-old college junior), I felt that maybe the time was right for someone like me to become a doctor and help to make hearing people and medical professionals realize that deaf people can do anything if they are given the chance to do so. When I got in medical school and did my clinic rotations (6 different general medical fields - Internal Medicine, Surgery, OB/GYN, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Family Medicine),

I had my best experiences in Pediatrics working with children, so I decided to become a pediatrician (doctor for children). When I did my residency in general pediatrics, I realized I want to work more closely and deeper with children and families. I also found that I really enjoyed focusing on child behavior and development so I decided to become a specialist in Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrics

How I became a doctor

How did I become a doctor? I had to complete 4 years of high school, 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 3 years in general residency program (General Pediatrics), and 3 years of post-doc clinical fellowship training in the subspecialty field of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics for a total of 18 years beginning from high school.

My schedule

My daily schedule varies from day to day. On Monday and Tuesday mornings, I see patients, mostly hearing children, in my office at the Center for Children with Special Needs.

On Monday afternoons, I have a 2-hour meeting with a visiting faculty attending physician focused on helping me become a better specialist in my field. On Tuesday afternoons, I go home and work on my clinic reports on my computer. On Wednesdays, I work with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families at the Boston Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children (BCDC) at Children's Hospital, Boston. I stay at the hospital all day on Wednesday to participate in a team meeting at the end of day to review and discuss the patients we see. On some Thursdays and Fridays, I work as a consultant for the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT and the Learning Center for Deaf Children in Framingham, MA. On other Thursdays and Fridays, I spend time working with Dr. Sanjay Gulati, a late-deafened child psychiatrist, at the Cambridge Hospital in Cambridge, MA and take residents (future doctors) from NEMC on a learning tour at TLC to help them understand more about what being deaf is all about. The rare days that I get off work, I usually spend trying to catch up with my paper work and clinic reports as well as emails and anything else that comes up.

Communication

I use sign language interpreter(s) to communicate with my colleagues who do not know sign language. Some of my colleagues know sign language, but most do not. Sometimes when I do not have access to interpreter, I communicate with people who do not know sign language through writing and emails.

Special Equipment

To help me do my job, I need some special equipment. I have a graphic (picture) auscultation (hearing) stethoscope system (an electronic device) that translates the heart sounds into a visual waveform on a small screen that allows me to appreciate a child's heart sounds. I use this all the time when I examine children.

I have a sign language interpreter with me all the time when I work with my patients and for all other important meetings and activities that I do, but I do not have an interpreter all the time because I work with people who know sign language sometimes and other times, I work at home on paperwork, emails, clinic reports, and other projects.

Other deaf doctors

I know of a few other doctors who have hearing loss. Some of them are hard-of-hearing, some are late-deafened, and others are deaf people who are oral and do not use sign language. Of all the ones that I know, some of them use sign language interpreter to help them understand what their patients are saying, but they all speak for themselves. I am the only deaf doctor that I know of who uses sign language interpreters to voice for me, which makes it different and somewhat harder because interpreters must be able to speak on a professional level to match my knowledge and experience.

Success

Becoming a deaf doctor is possible, but not easy. Becoming a successful deaf professional is a very big challenge for any deaf person. If it is what you REALLY want and if you are willing to WORK for it, it is worth it. We really need more deaf doctors and deaf professionals to help expose and educate the hearing world to what deaf people can really do.

But, there are many other ways other than being a doctor or even a professional to be successful. The most important thing is to find what you really want to do with your life and work then do whatever it takes to get it. Think positive and remember, look for balance and be happy!