NYMC Faculty Publications

Impact of USMLE Step-1 Accommodation Denial on US Medical Schools: A National Survey

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Research Article with the Highest Number of Social Media Mentions NYMC First Author

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Plos One

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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


INTRODUCTION: In 2019, 4.6% of US-MD students self-identified as students with disabilities (SWD); many of these students will require accommodations on the USMLE Step-1 examination. Given the high-stakes nature of Step-1 for medical school advancement and residency match, SWD denied accommodations on Step-1 face considerable consequences. To date no study has investigated the rate of accommodation denial and its impact on medical school operations. METHODS: To investigate the rate of accommodation denial and evaluate whether Step-1 accommodation denial impacts medical school operations, a 10-question survey was sent to Student Affairs Deans and disability resource professionals at all fully-accredited US-MD granting programs. Two open-ended questions were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. RESULTS: Seventy-three of the 141 schools responded (52%). In the 2018-2019 academic year, 276 students from 73 schools applied for Step-1 accommodations. Of these, 144 (52%) were denied. Of those denied, 74/144 (51%) were delayed entry into the next phase of curriculum and 110/144 (76%) took the Step-1 exam unaccommodated. Of the 110 who took Step-1 without accommodations, 35/110 (32%) failed the exam, and 4/110 (3%) withdrew or were dismissed following exam failure. Schools reported varied investments of time and financial support for students denied accommodations, with most schools investing less than 20 hours (67%) and less than $1,000.00 (69%). Open-responses revealed details regarding the impact of denial on schools and students including frustration with process; financial and human resources allocation; delay in student progression; lack of resourcing and expertise; and emotional and financial burdens on students. DISCUSSION: Step-1 accommodation denial has non-trivial financial, operational, and career impacts on medical schools and students alike. The cause of accommodation denial in this population requires further exploration.