First Annual Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine Interprofessional Virtual Conference for Health Profession Students

Advancing Disability Equity in Healthcare

Saturday, October 16th 2021

DAC Med logo

The Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine (DAC Med) was pleased to host our first annual virtual conference on Saturday, October 16th, 2021.

Through thoughtful sessions, reflective panels, hands-on workshops, and collaborative team-based learning activities, we learned about how we as health professions students can advocate for patients with disabilities, support our peers with disabilities, and address ableism in medicine and health education.



Conference Schedule

10:00-10:10 a.m. CST Plenary
10:10-10:50 a.m. CST

Disability Inclusion in Research and Health Curricula

Co-Presenters: Emily Hotez PhD, Maya Ayoub MD, Zina Jawadi MS

10:55-11:35 a.m. CST

Multidisciplinary Spheres of Disability Advocacy: A Panel

Panelists: Bonnie Swenor PhD, Diana Cejas MD MPH, Lisa Meeks PhD, Kathy Flaherty JD

11:40-12:30 p.m. CST Lunch with Networking Hour Breakout Rooms
12:35-1:20 p.m. CST

Healthcare Disparities for Patients with Disabilities and Provider Bias

Co-Presenters: Tara Lagu MD, Megan Morris PhD

1:25-2:00 p.m. CST

Introduction to American Sign Language for Healthcare Workshop

Presenter: Marla Berkowitz, MA CDI

2:05-2:40 p.m. CST

Introduction to Accessible Equipment Workshop

Presenters: AnneMarie Doyle MA, CCC-SLP, Kelly Harbon PT, DPT, Alicia Tuuk OT

2:45-3:45 p.m. CST

Team-Based Disability Management in Healthcare: Case-Based Learning

Facilitators: John Brinkmann MA, CPO/L, FAAOP(D), Michael Cavanaugh MSHI, CPO, Anne Marie Doyle MA, CCC-SLP, Jana Ellison MS, OTR/L, CLT, Allison Kessler MD, MSc, Melissa Kolski PT, DPT, Marissa Liveris MMS, PA-C, Kate Mraz, MS, CGC, Leslie Rydberg MD, Kathy Stevens PhD, RN, CRRN, NE-BC 

3:50-4:30 p.m. CST

Disability Visibility in Narrative: A Panel

Panelists: Courtney Baker BA, Ray Martin BS, Samantha Schroth BS
4:30 p.m. CST Closing

Conference Chairs

Trisha Kaundinya Headshot
Trisha Kaundinya, BS

Co-Founder and Co-President of DAC Med,
MD/MPH Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Elizabeth Adams Headshot
Elizabeth Adams, BA

Co-Founder and Co-President of DAC Med, MD Candidate at
Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Sam Schroth Headshot
Samantha Schroth, BS

DAC Med Executive Board, DAC Med
National Network Committee Board, MD/PhD Candidate at
Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Garima Tomar Headshot
Garima Tomar, BS

DAC Med National Network Committee Board,
MD/PhD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine

Brianna Proctor Headshot
Brianna Proctor, BS
DAC Med National Network Committee Board,
MS Prosthetics and Orthotics Candidate at Northwestern University

Our Speakers

Emily Hotez Headshot

Emily Hotez, PhD

Emily Hotez is an assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Hotez is a developmental psychology researcher with a focus on promoting the health and well-being of individuals with I/DD across the lifespan. Dr. Hotez currently serves on the leadership team of the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). As a researcher and sibling of an autistic adult, Dr. Hotez is committed to conducting research that adapts a neurodiversity-oriented lens towards health. Dr. Hotez received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and her B.A. in psychology from the George Washington University.


Maya Ayoub Headshot

Maya Ayoub, MD

Maya Ayoub, MD, EdM, is a third year Child Neurology Resident at UCLA. She studied neurobiology with a minor in global health and health policy at Harvard College for her undergraduate degree. Prior to joining the medical field, Maya worked as a Clinical Developmental Associate in an Intensive Outpatient Program, Pediatric Minds; from there, she focused her studies on the overlap between educational accommodations, neurodevelopment, and the healthcare system through her Special Studies Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work in medicine, starting at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, has focused on medical education, training around evidence-based behavior strategies for parents, and advocacy.


Zina Jawadi Headshot

Zina Jawadi, MS

Zina Jawadi is a medical school student at UCLA. Previously, she worked as a decision analytics associate for ZS Associates.  Zina has a BS in biology and an MS in bioengineering, both from Stanford University.  Since 2019, Zina has been serving on the national Board of Directors of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Zina has prelingual bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and wears hearing aids.




Bonnielin Swenor Headshot

Bonnielin Swenor, PhD

Dr. Swenor is an epidemiologist and associate professor at The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and the Epidemiology Department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, which addresses health inequities for people with disabilities and aims to shift the paradigm from ‘living with a disability’ to ‘thriving with a disability’. The Center focuses on establishing evidence, developing strategies, and shaping policy to maximize health, inclusion, and equity for people with all types of disabilities. Dr. Swenor’s career is motivated by her personal experience with visual impairment, and she uses a multidisciplinary approach to conduct research to identify and address barriers to health equity and societal inclusion for people with disabilities. Dr. Swenor received a master of public health and doctorate degrees in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institute on Aging.


Diana Cejas Headshot

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH

Diana Cejas is a pediatric neurologist and writer in Durham, NC. She obtained her MD at Howard University and a MPH in Maternal and Child Health at the George Washington University prior to completing general pediatrics training in the Tulane – Oschner Pediatric Residency Program and pediatric neurology training at the University of Chicago.  After her training was complete, she returned to her home state to practice medicine, to spend time with her family, and to write. Through her clinical work, she cares for children and young adults with a broad spectrum of developmental disabilities with complex neurological and psychiatric comorbidities. She seeks to improve health outcomes in this population as they transition to adulthood and serves as Principal Investigator of several studies that explore their unique experiences. She shares her own story of critical illness, stroke, and cancer survivorship along with other commentary on medicine and disability via essays and other works of creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in medical journals including The Journal of the American Medical Association and Neurology; literary magazines including The Iowa Review, Catapult, and Passages North; anthologies including Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century and A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South; and other sources of online and print media. She is currently working on a collection of essays that describes her life as a physician-patient. She spends her days off on her family’s farm gardening and tending to their honeybees. 


Lisa Meeks Headshot

Lisa Meeks, PhD

Dr. Meeks is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School and Director of the SUMMIT program, which focuses on Disability Inclusion in Health Professions Education. As an administrative leader and researcher Dr. Meek’s work helps to inform policy and practice on the topic. She founded the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science Education, co-developed of the AAMC disability Webinar Series on Disability, and served as lead author of the AAMC Special Report: Accessibility, Inclusion, and Action in Medical Education: Lived Experiences of Learners and Physicians with Disabilities. Dr. Meeks is also a faculty contributor to the new ACGME Equity Matters initiative.


Kathy Flaherty Headshot

Kathy Flaherty, JD

A graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School, Kathy has dedicated her professional life to advocating for the rights of the underserved. Since 2015, Kathy has served as Executive Director of Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc., a statewide non-profit agency that provides legal services to low income individuals with mental health conditions, who reside in hospitals or the community, on matters related to their treatment, recovery, and civil rights.  Kathy spent 13 years as a Staff Attorney at Statewide Legal Services of CT, Inc., the centralized intake hotline for all the Connecticut legal services programs. Kathy combines her personal experience as a recipient of mental health services and her legal background to speak to issues affecting those living with mental health conditions.  

Tara Lagu Headshot

Tara Lagu, MD

Dr. Tara Lagu is an Internist and health services researcher with an interest in influencing policy and improving care  for vulnerable patients, including patients with heart failure (HF) and mobility disability. After completing a degree in Pharmacy from Purdue University, an MD/MPH at the Yale University School of Medicine, and General Internal Medicine Residency at Rhode Island Hospital/Warren Alpert Medical School/Brown University, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania from 2005-2008. Dr. Lagu has published ~140 original peer-reviewed manuscripts in high-impact journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and The Journal of Hospital Medicine. Her work has included evaluations of health care delivery methods, observational studies of treatment effectiveness, research in dissemination and implementation of health care interventions, and descriptions of disparities in health and health care for vulnerable and minority populations. Dr. Lagu is also a Senior Deputy Editor for the Journal of Hospital Medicine, was the winner of the 2019 Society of Hospital Medicine Award for Excellence in Research, and was named one of the American College of Physicians “Top Hospitalists” for 2019.


Megan Morris Headshot

Megan Morris, PhD

Megan Morris, PhD, MPH, CCC-SLP is an Associate Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine in the Department of Medicine at University of Colorado, Anschutz. Her research focuses on provider and healthcare organization-level factors that negatively impact the quality of care delivered to patients with disabilities. Dr. Morris is founder and director of the Disability Equity Collaborative (




Marla Berkowitz headshot

Marla Berkowitz, MA CDI

Marla Berkowitz is a faculty member of the American Sign Language Program at the Ohio State University and holds a national master certification with American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA).  She has taught more than 30 years of ASL instruction, mentoring, interpreting, interpreter assessment, education, and training. She is also a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and is well known for interpreting Governor Mike DeWine’s COVID-19 Press conferences. She holds a national certification with Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, a state certification with the Supreme Court of Ohio in court interpreting, and an interpreting license with the State of Ohio Department of Education. Marla has two master’s degrees from New York University and Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. She co-authored Deaf and Hearing Siblings in Conversation, the first published book to document the dynamics of deaf and hearing adult sibling relationships. A New York native, she resides in Columbus, Ohio.  


Raymond Martin headshot

Raymond Martin, BS

Raymond Martin is a first-year student in the Physician Assistant Program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Raymond has a BS in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked as a certified medical assistant in Psychiatry.  Raymond identifies as having arthrogryposis, type 2A with all four extremities affected and uses a wheelchair for his daily mobility. Raymond is also a 7x Paralympic Gold Medalist in Track and Field, having competed in the Paralympic Games in London, Rio, and just recently returned from Tokyo.


Courtney Baker headshot

Courtney Baker, BA

Courtney Baker is a student in the Northwestern University Doctorate of Audiology program. She has a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as in the Professional Use of Spanish, and a minor in Aging studies from Augustana College. She was the founder or the Augustana College Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness OnCampus, a peer-support group with a mission of educating, supporting, and advocating for students with mental health concerns. Previously, Courtney was a job coach and coordinator for Barrington Hidden Talents, a group that strives to create meaningful summer employment opportunities for students with physical and intellectual disabilities.


Sam Schroth headshot

Samantha Schroth, BS

Samantha Schroth is an MD PhD Student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Originally from Wisconsin, this farm girl grew up in a tight knit family with plans to pursue veterinary school until a freak accident and spinal cord injury in 2013 resulting in paraplegia altered her life trajectory. Since her injury, Sam has sought to challenge disability related bias, serving as Ms. Wheelchair WI 2014 and Ms. Wheelchair America 2015. Sam has since continued her advocacy efforts and has published in the Chicago Tribune and Journal of Academic Medicine, serves as a board member of the Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine (DAC Med), and participates recreationally in adaptive sports.


Nora Visscher-Simon Headshot

Nora Visscher-Simon, BA

Nora Visscher-Simon is a first year in the Northwestern University Doctor of Audiology program. At a young age, Nora was diagnosed with Epilepsy, Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Disorder. Growing up in a family that moved a lot, Nora learned to be an advocate for herself. After graduating from Meredith College, she worked with children with various disabilities in early intervention. Nora hopes to utilize her experience in advocacy in the hearing healthcare profession.

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