Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

How to Train Your (Future) Doctor



As special needs families, how many times haven’t we wished that our doctor, or our child’s doctor, could spend the afternoon with us? That they could see our realities and understand what we, our children, and our families go through every day – even if just for a couple of hours?

For fifteen years, that’s just what Roberta Harris, co-creator of the Home Visit Program through Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS), has made happen. USUHS “is the nation’s only federal health science university.”  The mission of USUHS is clear: “to train, educate and prepare uniformed services health professionals, officers and leaders to directly support the Military Health System, the National Security and National Defense Strategies of the United States and the readiness of our Armed Forces.” Roberta Harris’ mission is to make the future doctors human; to open their eyes and their hearts to the lives of some of the special needs families they may encounter. Every year between the end of August and mid-November, Mrs. Harris places approximately 100 first-year medical students inside special needs homes. For a couple of hours, these next wave physicians get to walk a mile in our shoes. They watch the meltdowns and the challenges. And they learn how difficult the day-to-day can be for a special needs family.

This experience often is life-changing for these med students. It’s one thing to theoretically understand a diagnosis or condition; it’s another thing altogether to be in a home environment and watch the struggle first hand. After placing nearly 1,500 first year medical students, Harris says no one walks away untouched.  And, she firmly believes that, years later, these students are better, more compassionate doctors because of this program.

The Home Visit Program matches incoming first year medical students with exceptional families in the DC/NoVA/MD region. Home Visits typically consist of one visit lasting between 2-3 hours. Currently there is a need for families with availability during the weeks of September 2, 9, 16, 23 and October 4. Your Home Visit is exactly that: YOURS. It can be whatever you like – hanging out at home, going to various therapy appointments, or whatever would best highlight the challenges your family faces. Families are matched with incoming med students through Harris. All visit coordination is done directly between the family and the student.  If you live in the DC/NoVA/MD region and are interested in opening your home and sharing your life with a future military physician, please contact Roberta Harris via email at

For those families who do not live in the target area, you can still help make a difference! Do you have words of wisdom to share with these future physicians? What do you wish they could know about special needs families? Your comments will be shared with the first year medical students. To have your voice heard, leave a comment below. I’ll make sure everything gets over to Mrs. Harris.

Please share this with any special needs families you know. They need not be military families, either. Civilian families are more than welcome to participate. Let’s do our part to help these physicians-in-training be the best future doctors they can be!


2 comments on “How to Train Your (Future) Doctor

  1. Amanda
    August 20, 2013

    Doctors need to remember to listen when a patient or a patient’s parent is speaking. An attitude of “All _____ kids do that,” is completely unacceptable. We are the ones in the trenches living it every day. Most of their experience is purely clinical. Together, we make the best team.

  2. Miranda
    August 20, 2013

    If a child that comes into your ER lives with chronic pain and is there because the pain is unmanageable at that time, don’t discount their pain if they aren’t in tears. After years of pain, they maybe able to laugh despite being in agony.

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