James Post, M.D.: Intern Extraordinaire

By Pola Rosen, Ed.D.

A glance at the resume of James Post, M.D. would indicate the average profile of success: he has a promising career as an intern at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, has an active, loving two-and-a-half-year-old son and a wonderful supportive wife. There’s one difference between Dr. Post and his fellow interns; he is a paraplegic with limited function in his upper extremities and performs his duties in a wheelchair. When necessary, he is aided by a physicians assistant.

James was attending a fun-filled summer at boy scout camp, looking forward to earning three merit badges. One was for shallow water rescue which required a dive into three feet of water. Following directions, James took a dive which almost took his life. He suddenly found himself a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Two major operations followed. An excellent 10th grader, he was tutored at home and in the hospital, achieving what was to be only the first of several educational miracles: he graduated on time with the rest of his class.

James had always been interested in science and medicine. Now he wanted even more information about his own injury, how the spinal cord works, and the mechanism behind such illnesses as strokes. Armed with a 3.92 GPA, a summa cum laude degree, and excellent medical board scores, he applied unsuccessfully to 13 Pennsylvania medical schools, his home state. James contacted local politicians and set into motion an amendment to the Pennsylvania Fair Education Opportunity Act which prevented discrimination on the basis of race, religion and color but not disability. The amendment was signed in 1993. Reapplying to the medical schools, James soon found the doors still shut. Undaunted, he went to the press, radio and television with his story. Dr. Herbert Schaumberg, Chair of the Neurology Department at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, heard and saw James and decided to help him. Dr. Schaumberg had his own personal experience with disability, using a cane as a result of childhood polio.

James soon entered the freshman class at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In June of 1997, Dr. James Post received a standing ovation at graduation. Not only had he completed his course of study but he was elected to the academic medical honor society, AOA, for excellence in achievement. Albert Einstein focused on my ability not my disability. "I love medicine, I love seeing people get better. As for future specialty, perhaps having an internal medicine practice and focusing on people with disabilities or maybe, nephrology.

"The advice I have for others is to do what you really want and not give up. People told me to be a computer programmer; it would have been the biggest mistake. I was able to surmount barriers with the support and help of my family, friends, wife and prayers to God."

A second and deeper glance at the resume of James Post, M.D. reveals the remarkable and indomitable spirit of a man who refused to give up. Dr. Post, you are an inspiration to us all.