Medical students experience a different sort of challenge at ‘Deaf Strong Hospital’

Yellow sign in background says 'No Voice' as 2 people in yellow shirts check in a patient as part of the program.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Medical students at Strong Memorial Hospital got a one-of-a-kind experience Friday.

The hospital hosted its ‘Deaf Strong Hospital’ event for the first time since 2019. It brings hearing and deaf people together to illustrate to students what deaf individuals, people with hearing loss, or any people who don’t speak English go through when navigating health care systems.

How do they do it? They staff the hospital with members of the deaf community and have hearing individuals who have limited to no knowledge of sign language try and get through an appointment.

“For example, when you go into a waiting room and a deaf person is waiting, they’re constantly watching to see that they’re not missing the person reading their name verbally, since they can’t hear,” National Center for Deaf Health Research’s Kelly Matthews said. “So, they’re trying to read the person’s lips and are constantly watching. So here, [students] watching and waiting for their names to be fingerspelled. So, this is the first time they’re experiencing not knowing when their name is actually being called.”

Students also received a lecture about deaf culture and health care disparities. Officials with the hospital say the combination of the lecture and the simulation give students a good idea of the challenges deaf individuals go through.