Renken Dentistry is giving people with disabilities something to smile about: career opportunities. Josh Renken has owned his practice since 2003 and just last year, after expanding his practice to Texas, instituted a vocational program for people with developmental differences. Inspired by his daughter, who has a developmental difference, this program gives young people with disabilities an entry into careers in the medical field.
“The unemployment rate among adults with disabilities is around 85%,” Renken said. “It’s a big problem in our society that no one talks about.”
Participants will get hands-on experience in administrative or clinical roles to assist in general dentistry services, including dental cleanings, X-rays, extractions, cosmetic services and orthodontics.
Employment is one of the many ways Renken supports people with developmental differences. For every product the office sells in their store, $1 goes to charities that support people with developmental disabilities.
“I always thought that what we do for people is more than just white teeth,” Renken said. “It’s really more about giving them a way to feel confident in their health and feel good about themselves.”
There is a new movement to break down barriers in the healthcare field for those with disabilities. On Twitter, people are sharing stories about those with disabilities who have defied the odds and are thriving working in the medical field despite their unique challenges, using the hashtag, #Docswithdisabilities.
One of the minds behind this movement is Lisa Meeks, a psychologist and researcher at Michigan Medicine specializing in disabilities in medicine and medical education. Meeks co-founded the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education, a group focused on improving access to medical education for students with disabilities. She came to a conclusion after co-authoring a report that many doctors still conceal their disabilities out of fear of stigma or bias.