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Dr. Michael McKee

Dr. Michael McKee, 35, assistant professor of Family Medicine at the University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center, is passionate about his career and about the possibilities for deaf people in health care.

“Family medicine is unique due to its focus on the biopsychosocial aspect of our patients,” he says. “It is fun caring for the entire family – from the grandchild to the grandmother. My hearing loss has given me compassion to work with patients struggling with various health issues.”

McKee faced his share of those who doubted that someone with a profound hearing loss could succeed in health care.

“Some faculty members felt that I did not belong in medicine. They saw my deafness as a ‘major handicap’ that would prevent me from helping patients.”

McKee was born in Tampa, FL, and identified with a profound hearing loss at age 2½. He had years of speech therapy growing up and began learning sign language in his teens.

“My parents were my teachers and my supporters,” he says. “They permitted me to develop a love of learning that allowed me to excel in college and medical school.”

In 1997, he entered Lynn University, where he began using accommodation  services--first notetakers, and then when he became more comfortable with ASL, sign language interpreters in medical school.

The interpreters helped him navigate the variety of settings and the large groups he faced in his medical studies.

“Interpreters allowed me to learn in a group format very effectively. Medical students go through clinical rotations, which can vary widely from the operating room to the outpatient room.”

Deaf role models also played an important part in McKee’s journey. They encouraged him to expand his possibilities as a teenager and helped him find suitable assistive stethoscopes as a practicing physician.

“They taught me that the world is only limited by your perspective of it,” he says.

McKee believes strongly that rapidly advancing technology “is a boon for Deaf people interested in health care careers. This will enable more barriers to be broken down.”

“However,” he cautions, “a strong foundation in education can never be substituted.

“It is important to recognize that many doubts are rooted in ignorance,” he says. “Take the time to educate people and listen to their concerns. By showing your passion for your work, you will convert a few of them to becoming your supporters and champions.” 

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