Monday, March 21, 2011

scientists with disabilities: part deux

The first part of this discussion can be found here.

It's time for some pro-activity.

There is an opportunity through the Society for Neuroscience called the Neuroscience Scholars Program.  It is a small three-year stipend for aspiring neuroscientists to fund enrichment opportunities such as conference attendance, workshops, travel for methodology training, etc.  It is aimed at those students of underrepresented race or ethnicity, from a disadvantaged background or with a disability.

Although I hate to refer to Crohn's as a disability, it can be very much an impairment to normal activity.  Therefore, I have decided to apply for the scholarship in the hope that the support from the program will ease my pursuit of opportunities beyond the laboratory.  One of these is to begin giving a voice to scientists with health impairments.  When I first decided to work toward my PhD, I scoured the internet and other resources for evidence that a chronic health condition such as Crohn's did not condemn one to mediocre science.  Instead, such a condition forces a researcher to be more innovative about approaching and negotiating obstacles, both in and outside of the lab.   I found several historical (e.g., Edison's diabetes, Einstein's dyslexia, Galileo's chronic rheumatic seizures) but almost no modern accounts of success. 

In my case, although I have had intermittent years which took a horrible toll on my soul, I found solace in my ability to continue with scientific inquiry.  When I could not conduct experiments, I read and wrote.  When I could not think clearly, I did extraordinary amounts of smaller tasks which involved more muscle memory than mind.  When I had to go slowly, I gave up reading or movie-watching time to relieve myself of the stress of time constraints on my lab projects.  There are always avenues that could be modified to accommodate the changes in my body.  There are always new strategies.

It warms my heart whenever celebrities out themselves in the media as maintaining a modified rockstar or celebrity athlete lifestyle with Crohns.  It gives hope to those of us who only see the seemingly flawless outcome, otherwise.  I decided that someone needed to be that celebrity for the world of science.  It is certainly not me, but I am taking steps to reach out to the physically and mentally disabled communities of scientific researchers (if you know of any, please send them my way).  With the support of the Neuroscience Scholars Program, I would hope to enhance this outreach in the way that CDSN and have provided a support and resource hub for Crohnies and scientists.

Wish me luck.


  1. You make me proud to be a Crohn, lady. Keep up the good work.