PEOPLE: Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride into the medical field – Jerusha’s persistence in the face of discrimination

Jerusha Mather is a neuroscientist, a PhD student, and a poet. Her next big goal is to get admitted to study medicine, and proceed to become a medical doctor.

Oh, and she has cerebral palsy.

In an industry where people with disabilities are thoroughly and regularly researched, Jerusha found that the biggest challenge to getting accepted to study medicine has been bias against people with disabilities within the industry itself. This includes recent policy changes which have made it more difficult for people with disabilities to gain admission to medical school.

Jerusha believes the new policy is focusing on all the wrong things.

“This document is pointless and focuses overtly on the weaknesses of a person – rather than their strengths,” she explained. “If they wanted to create a fair and just document, they should give out targeted strategies and seek to support the individual student and not discourage them.”

Even before the policy was introduced, Jerusha highlights that misguided stigmas around people with disabilities already made it difficult.

She says the most challenging thing about having a disability and being in the medical profession is “the biased views that my medical doctor colleagues may have that I try and challenge every day.”

But Jerusha is determined to make and be the change she wants to see in the industry. She attributes a lot of her own passion and interest in the field to another female neurologist with cerebral palsy. She was inspired to follow in her footsteps and believes role models like these are critical to ensuring the next generation reaps the benefits of welcoming more people with disabilities into the workplace, particularly in the medical field.

Her advice to others with disabilities who have ever considered a career in medicine is to show persistence.

She says, “It is important to persist in the face of discrimination. Don’t give up.”

Jerusha’s current research investigates strength training and non-invasive brain stimulation in adults with spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy, and whether this combination can improve motor function and result in faster strength gains.

She explains, “There is not a lot of research completed in adults with cerebral palsy. I wanted to fill in the gaps and find targeted medical treatment that can enhance their independence. I think that cerebral palsy is still considered a pediatric condition and when we transition into adulthood, we may not be given the same amount of medical attention as we received when we were children.”


About the expert

Jerusha Mather is a multi-skilled, creative, and motivated professional with a sheer love for the neurosciences. She is a neuroscientist with a cause. She was born in Sri Lanka where the doctors said she would never walk or talk as a result of her cerebral palsy. Her parents decided to move to Australia when she was two, where through her faith and access to therapy services, her condition improved, and she is now able to walk and talk. 

Her research passion is non-invasive brain stimulation and neural plasticity and how these concepts can help treat cerebral palsy. She is currently undertaking PhD studies in this area.

Her long-term goal is to become a medical doctor, one of compassion and empathy birthed from living with a disability. Hence, she is also a fierce advocate for prospective and current medical students with disability in Australia where significant barriers exist.

She is an Instagram poet who will soon publish her collection of poetry (Burnt bones and beautiful butterflies) and a fond lover of music.