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Disability questions taken from Hopkins application


In response to a civil rights complaint, the Johns Hopkins University has dropped two questions concerning a student's possible disabilities from its medical school application.

Applicants for the fall of 1995 will not be asked, before admission, if they have a condition that would hamper completion of the medical program, or if they have ever sought treatment for any emotional or psychological condition.

"We have agreed to drop the questions from the application," said Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea. "It is still our position that they are appropriate questions. . . . In particular with the medical curriculum, the university has a responsibility that the medical students are fully qualified and trained and can practice medicine safely and effectively."

The revised Hopkins application forms were available yesterday to prospective medical students. The revision, conforming to the protested federal rules, followed more than a year of negotiations with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

The university is studying the effect the questions have had on the admissions process, Mr. O'Shea said. Disabled students have completed the Hopkins medical program, he said.

"It is imaginable that there are disabilities which by their nature would prevent the students from being able to be trained fully as a physician," he added. "It's important to know before the student is admitted whether they have any disability which would render them unable to practice medicine. Therefore it is impractical to wait until after the admission process is over."

The Office for Civil Rights began its investigation of Hopkins' admission procedure after a 13-year-old applicant filed a complaint that the school did not grant him an interview because of his age. OCR ruled that the university had complied with the act on age in that case, but during the investigation determined that the university had violated other statutes regarding disability and nondiscrimination.

Because the medical school receives federal aid, it is subject to the government regulations.

At least two other medical schools -- Albany Medical College and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey -- were investigated and altered their admissions process to comply.

"This is an issue not just for medical schools, but for all of higher education," said Frances Hall, student program director for the Association of American Medical Colleges. "All schools are aware that there are new requirements because of the [American Disabilities Act]. . . . All medical schools, with or without [Hopkins'] decision, will be removing these questions down the line."

But Hopkins officials disagree and adopted the new forms under protest.

"Our lawyers believe that there is nothing in the [American Disabilities Act] that applies to admission," Mr. O'Shea said.

Last year, the Hopkins medical school received 3,941 applications for admission and accepted 200; 123 will be entering this fall.

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