Oct 10 2012

U-M doctor helps deaf college students achieve their dreams: “Once you get in the door, you want to open the door for other people.”

U-M’s Philip Zazove – the third known deaf doctor in the U.S. – says his family’s foundation honors his mother and her work by helping deaf college students pay for school

When Philip Zazove’s parents discovered their four-year-old son was deaf in 1955, they were given a best-case-scenario they wouldn’t accept: that he’d complete special education classes, get a non-skilled job and be “functional.”

Instead, Zazove went to college, then medical school and on to become the third known deaf doctor in the country.

Today, along with his family, Zazove, M.D., clinical professor and interim chair of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, aims to help other deaf students achieve their goals through the Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation. The national foundation awards high-achieving deaf students with college scholarships.

Louise Zazove persistently pursued her dream of being a physician during an era when few women were accepted into medical schools. She then helped make sure her son achieved his own dreams.

“Once you get in the door, you want to open the door for other people,” says Zazove, 61, a Chicago native. “Access to education is one of the biggest barriers for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.”

The foundation is a fitting memorial for Zazove’s mother Louise who not only advocated for her son’s education rights but her own. The eldest child of poor Russian immigrants, Louise dreamed of being a physician herself but it was an era when few women –especially Jewish women – were accepted at American medical schools.

Undeterred by several rejections, Louise was ultimately accepted into Chicago Medical School as the only woman in an entering class of 92 students.

When Louise learned her son was deaf, she learned all she could about deafness, consulted experts and devoted herself to seeking the best ways to educate him. She and Zazove’s father Earl, also a doctor, made a radical decision: to send their son through public schools so he could thrive in the hearing world.

It meant adamantly protesting when teachers asked to move their son out of mainstream classes, advocating for accommodations when necessary, and even visiting skeptical college admissions directors who couldn’t believe how well their son had excelled in high school.

“My parents fought hard so that I would be treated the same as everyone else. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” Zazove says. “They always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do.”

“My mom really valued education because it was the reason she succeeded,” he adds. “It’s gratifying to see this foundation make a difference for other people and to help them succeed. It honors my mother. It continues her work.”

The foundation awards roughly $25,000 a year and has helped more than 25 students from around the country since being established in 2003.

The scholarship has made a big difference to recipients such as Alison Stroud, 28, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in public policy, specifically on disability rights, at U-M.

Philip Zazove, M.D., interim chair of Family Medicine at U-M and late mother Louise. The Louise Zazove foundation helps deaf students pay for college. “It honors my mother. It continues her work,” he says.

“It allowed me to focus more on school and not worry so much about paying for tuition. Additionally, having the scholarship proved to be a continual reminder that there are people besides my family who believe in me,” she says.

Stroud, who was born profoundly deaf, has spent a lot of her life convincing others of her capabilities. The three-sport, high-school athlete had to prove to basketball, volleyball and softball coaches that she was a key player when she had visual cues in the game. In high school, she worked hard not to fall behind in classes that required listening and note-taking. In social settings, she had to ask people to slow down conversation so she could read lips.

She credited the Zazoves for investing time and resources to help others through the foundation.

“I think it is amazing the Zazove family is willing to take time out of their already hectic schedules to help provide opportunities for young students so that they can continue the hard work and education they need to do to achieve their dreams,” she says.

“The Zazoves, especially, Phil, are very insightful and understanding that deaf and hard of hearing students usually, if not always, must work harder and longer hours than an average student to overcome the communication barriers and succeed.

“The Zazove Foundation did not just help me pay for my tuition. The scholarship, as well as Philip Zazove, inspired me to become a stronger advocate for people with disabilities.”

To learn more about the foundation, visit the website at http://www.ltzfoundation.org/.


10 Responses to “U-M doctor helps deaf college students achieve their dreams: “Once you get in the door, you want to open the door for other people.””

  1. Hilary says:

    Growing up with deaf grandparents and seeing the challenges they faced, definitely made me stop to read the story in it’s entirity. I have seen Dr. Zazove’s name for years working at U of M, though had never known he was deaf. Also to be one of 3 known deaf Dr.’s is astounding. To have the courage and ability to go through so much, conquering uneducated society, and achieving your goals is truly amazing. I only hope that other deaf people look at you as an inspiration into their lives and follow in your footsteps.

  2. Lynn says:

    Thank you for this inspiring story. My 3-yr-old grandson is hearing impaired and is struggling in language acquisition. I would love to hear how you were able to develop the language skills necessary to succeed as you have. I know many deaf people, very few of whom have highly-developed English skills. You are an inspiration and I hope my grandson will be able to achieve as you have done.

  3. Sarah Zalanowski says:

    It is amazing how one bright example can be enough to help many not be afraid to succeed! Thank you for sharing this life changing story.

  4. Kevin says:

    Great article. Thank you Dr. Zazove for all you are doing to make a positive difference in this world.

  5. Terence Joiner says:

    This is really an inspiration. I have learned so much from working with Dr. Zavove. He is truly an inspiration.

  6. Sharon Klay says:

    My granddaughter had her first birthday in August and has just experienced a sense of sound, thanks to a cochlear implant; I thank you for sharing the struggles and victories. As one who has lived my whole life with a disability, I know that while working to be just accepted as “ordinary” people, many of those challenged have become extraordinary individuals.

  7. Dreama says:

    What a delight to read Dr. Zazove’s story. Truly inspirational and remarkable. I am profoundly deaf; I understand from life experiences, the real challenges of thriving well in the hearing world – to overcome communication barriers and succeed. Dr. Zazove has shown the ‘sky is the limit’ to what a deaf person can aspire to do. His strong courage and extraordinary strength to overcome such great adversity is very inspirational. Thank you for sharing Dr. Zazove’s beautiful story.

  8. joni smith says:

    Dr. Z is an amazing mentor to UofM Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. More than 20 years of service, attending our events, writing letters of reference, and following through with students makes him very popular. His history as the Deaf Doctor at UofM Shady Trails Camp in Northport, is often repeated by Deaf Students attending their first camp in the 1990s and discovering a doctor who spoke their language. Deaf patients travel from all over Michigan to see him. Former member of the Board of Direccts for Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, Dr. Z continues his quest of making things more accessible for all people. He was awarded The James Neubacher Award by the Council for Disability Concerns at UofM. What a guy! Joan E. Smith, Retired Coordinator of Svcs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students, UofM

  9. Linda says:

    Another reason I feel lucky to work for the Health System. So many stories like this, faculty, donors, staff and volunteers who make a DIFFERENCE, I go to work proud of the role I can play to further great things, even though my part may be small.

  10. Sarah R says:

    Dr. Zazove has written his memoirs, called “When the Phone Rings, My Bed Shakes,” and it’s a fun and inspiring read.

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