Capitol Correspondence - 11.14.23

New Funding Seeks to Expand Medical School Training on I/DD

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In a significant move towards inclusive health care, Elevance Health, a prominent health insurance company, is committing $1.42 million in funding to drive a substantial expansion of training on intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) at medical schools across the United States. The goal of this initiative is to more than double the number of medical schools dedicated to preparing future doctors to provide care to individuals with I/DD.

The focal point of this investment is the National Inclusive Curriculum for Health Education Medical (NICHE Medical), an endeavor initiated by the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry. NICHE Medical aims to assist medical schools in developing and implementing comprehensive curricula on intellectual and developmental disabilities. Currently, NICHE Medical supports 20 medical schools, constituting only 10% of medical programs nationwide. With the infusion of funding, this number is projected to increase to 25%.

Over the next five years, the newly allocated funding is expected to support curriculum implementation at an additional 28 medical schools, in addition to offering scholarships. Already, grants have been awarded to Albany Medical College in New York, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, New York Medical College, Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey, Stanford Medical School in California, UMass Chan Medical School in Massachusetts, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The shortage of training on intellectual and developmental disabilities at medical schools has posed significant challenges in providing health care for individuals with I/DD. A study conducted in 2022 revealed that only 41% of physicians believed they could offer patients with disabilities a level of care similar to that provided to others.

For years, disability advocates have been advocating for the inclusion of training on the needs of people with I/DD in medical school curriculum requirements, but these efforts have faced numerous roadblocks. However, recent commitments from the presidents of the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association to expand disability training for medical and dental students have provided a glimmer of hope. In addition, federal officials have announced $8 million in awards to 18 medical training programs aimed at improving care for individuals with physical or intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those with limited English proficiency.