SIX DOCTORS WITH HEARING IMPAIRMENTS IN ROCHESTER, NY
In Rochester, home to one of the largest deaf populations in the country, it’s not surprising to find a doctor who also happens to be deaf working here.
What might be surprising is that Rochester has become home to six deaf doctors, including four physicians, a veterinarian and a dentist. All were deaf as children, and all know sign language.
While no statistics exist on the number of deaf medical doctors in the country, those here say their clan is in the dozens but probably fewer than 100.
Nationally, about 1 percent of a population is deaf, which would equate to 7,367 deaf people in Monroe County, according to the Center for Governmental Research. That doesn’t factor in a larger deaf population in Rochester because of NTID and the Rochester School for the Deaf.
Dr. Carolyn Stern, a Brighton physician in private practice, drives a car with “DEAF DOC” personalized license plates, which she says helps educate a few people who seem surprised deaf people can even drive a car, let alone become a doctor.
“People said I couldn’t do it. But did I listen? No,” Stern said, smiling.
She communicates easily with her patients about 30 percent are deaf by speaking or using sign language. She rarely uses an interpreter. At their first meeting, she tells her patients about her hearing loss.
“I don’t think they think of me as deaf,” Stern said. “That kind of falls to the wayside as long as communication is happening.”
Stern has been, and continues to be, a role model to medical students.
Stern also keeps busy consulting medical groups, associations and agencies about accessible health care. Those visits have taken her as far away as China.
“Because I can’t hear, I depend on lip reading for cues to what is being said and thus notice teeth with cavities,” said Dr. Christopher Lehfeldt, a dentist who moved to Rochester in 1991. “Dentistry, then, is perfect for me as a career.”
Click here to read The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle News. Courtesy: Chris Lehfeldt and The Democrat and Chronicle.