#DeafSuccess: Dr. Zachary Featherstone, Pediatrician

Jan 11, 2022

Dr. Zachary Featherstone is currently training to be a #pediatrician at UNLV Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. In his #DeafSuccess story, Zachary discusses the importance of setting expectations early on when developing relationships with patients so the language barrier is a non-issue. He shares the struggles and triumphs of his legal battle while attending medical school and the persistence required to gain reasonable accommodations.

Full video description: https://tinyurl.com/36jy3t5y

Video Description:

Zach, a bald white man with glasses, sits in a darkened room and signs. The NDC logo is in the upper right corner with text overlaid “#DeafSuccess.”


When I enter into the patients’ rooms to do evaluations, assessments and physicals for diagnoses or when developing treatment plans, I have an interpreter in the exam room with me. I place the interpreter behind the patient, rather than by my side where it would create a distraction.

In the many years that I have been in medical practice, I’ve only had about three patients complain about the logistics of the interpreter; three out of a countless array of patients I’ve worked with.

The reality is that I have to be the one to set the expectation from the minute I walk in the room. “Hi, I’m Doctor Featherstone. This is the interpreter. How can I help you today?”

Video Description:

Now we zoom in on a slow motion close up of Dr. Featherstone smiling at the camera.  Text appears on a banner: Dr. Zachary Featherstone, D.O. Pediatric Resident.


I was accepted by a medical school, which was great! I filled out and returned the paperwork they sent.  After it was accepted and approved, I got in touch with the school to kindly request an interpreter. They immediately had concerns about cost, logistics, and whether or not deaf people were even   capable of attending medical school.

  This went on for months, and my request for an interpreter morphed into an analysis of my capabilities as a deaf person and not about finding an interpreter.

At this point, I had attended BYU and had already worked for one year as an operating room technician. During that time I had demonstrated that I was able to perform multiple tasks in the OR, including work with other doctors.

I received a certified letter in the mail that informed me that my enrollment in medical school had been canceled and that my acceptance into medical school had been regretfully withdrawn.

The reasons were threefold. First, my attendance would mean changing the curriculum for the medical school. Second, in an emergency situation, a deaf physician poses a risk to the patient, and third, that a deaf person is a distraction to other students and will negatively affect their educational experience. Those were their reasons. I was taken aback by this.

I started with doing some research in hopes of finding other deaf doctors. I found one deaf doctor on the AMPHL website – the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses. I found this neat fellow, Doctor Christopher Moreland.  I asked his opinion and he was able to put me in touch with a phenomenal lawyer. And they validated that I was not wrong. I showed them the evidence and e-mails I had collected that proved I had been discriminated against.

My lawyer wrote a letter to the school warning them that this would result in a lawsuit if they didn’t remedy their error.  He gave them one week to respond. We heard nothing back, so we went forward and filed a lawsuit.

Just before medical school was about to start, I had my pretrial hearing where the judge ordered that I attend medical school while the lawsuit was in progress.  So I started med school.

The legal proceedings took two years, so those first two years of medical school were stressful with my studies plus going to frequent legal meetings, preparing for trial. It was tough.

Finally, one day the school called and indicated they were willing to negotiate and work together to find a resolution.  We did and from then on everything went well.

Clearly, we deaf people have a lot more challenges than typical, but we shouldn’t allow that to stop us. We must keep trying. Even if you fail, get up and try again.

You have a full army of people behind you, rooting for you to keep going.

Video Description:

Text appears: Dr. Featherstone will complete his training as a pediatrician in June 2022.

A teal banner animates in with the text #DeafSuccess.

NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background: nationaldeafcenter.org

“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”

Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”

Subtitles available in English and Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés

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© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International

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Topic(s): #DeafSuccess
Type of Resource: Videos

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