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Grateful for the ‘direct medical impact’ of earning her MD

Emory Report | May 7, 2021

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Kristin Limpose reflects on being a doctor with a disability, the importance of listening to patients and what it has been like to complete medical school during a pandemic.

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Kristin Limpose is proof positive that “disability” does not equal “inability.” As she prepares to graduate from Emory School of Medicine, she reflects on being a doctor with a disability, the importance of listening to patients and what it has been like to complete medical school during a pandemic.


Q: Please say more about your background and your path to Emory School of Medicine. 

A: I lived multiple places while growing up, but I spent most of my childhood in the Tampa, Florida, area. For undergraduate, I attended Clemson University in South Carolina and majored in biochemistry.  

I was born missing my left hand. At the end of undergraduate, I was thinking about doing an MD/PhD but sold myself short on being able to complete an MD. Overall, I just lacked some self-confidence due to my “disability.”  

I had been performing research and enjoyed it, so I started my PhD at Emory. Halfway through my degree, I had a change of heart and decided I had made a mistake by not going for a combined MD/PhD program. I enjoyed research but very much missed working with people, and I wanted the direct medical impact I could have as a doctor. The time post-undergrad allowed me to gain more confidence in my abilities and really think about what I wanted my career to look like. I completed my PhD, applied to Emory School of Medicine and got in.


Q: You matched in pediatrics at Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, so you will be staying in Atlanta. What excites you most about your residency training?

A: Getting to stay close to friends (who are like family) and family for both Nate and me. Having that support system close by during my residency will be invaluable. 


Q: What would you want others to know about your years at Emory School of Medicine? Do you have a favorite experience or memory? 

A: I remember [being in] orientation with Dr. Schwartz, and him repeating “person, place and time” what felt like 100 times. I didn’t get it, but once I hit clinic, I remember thinking “I’m sorry I ever doubted how integral person, place and time really is.”

Some of my favorite experiences were serving Grady’s underserved population. As a medical student, I had more time to spend with patients, and I heard some really compelling life stories that molded me into a more compassionate doctor and person.


Q: What’s the most important thing you learned during your undergraduate medical education? 

A: Listening (really listening, without interrupting) to the patient’s history and completing a good physical exam will get you to the answer 90% of the time. We are often too reliant on labs and imaging to make the diagnosis. Be thoughtful and justify your orders to be a good steward of health care and [mindful of] the cost to the patient.


Q: What’s one piece of advice you would offer to incoming first-year medical students? 

A: Disability does NOT equal inability. You are guaranteed to work with a disabled patient at some point during your medical training and careers. Patients with a disability have such a creative spirit, and they have compensated in a myriad of ways that are unimaginable to others in order to live their normal life. Don’t have preconceived notions of what someone can and can’t do … talk to them. Patients with disabilities are human and still have the same medical needs as every other person.


Q: How did it feel to finish medical school during a pandemic?

A: Whew, what a ride! It was nerve wracking finishing fourth year in the ICUs and emergency medicine prior to being vaccinated. It was amazing getting to see the evolution of COVID-19 care over this last year. We were all (students, residents, attendings) learning together. In pediatrics, I got to train and learn how to treat a new COVID-19–related MIS-C syndrome; it was incredible seeing what goes into treating a new disorder.