The Foreign Service Journal, September 2010

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 0 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 27 F O C U S O N T H E O F F I C E O F M E D I C A L S E R V I C E S D OES S TATE D ISCRIMINATE A GAINST P EOPLE WITH D ISABILITIES ? don’t remember my last moment of good health. I was too engrossed in my work. I do know that it occurred in Kigali on Feb. 12, 1988, a warm, sunny Friday afternoon. I was sitting at my desk when my concentration was broken by the thought, “Gee, I feel funny. I’ve felt funny for a couple of min- utes.” I glanced at my watch. It was 3:45, and I realized, “That tropical fever is back for the fourth time, and I’m in for three days of agony. There goes my long week- end!” That episode led to my medical evacuation and, four months later, a medical curtailment of my first tour, as con- tinuous pains and problems following the fever made my life miserable. Finally, in late 1991 I got the diagnosis I’d begun to suspect: the fever had precipitated a moderately bad case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which was only beginning to be known then. CFS is an unexplained illness that affects many people, though, like lupus and multiple sclerosis, women contract it more often than other segments of the population. The latest research suggests that CFS may be caused by the re- cently discovered XMRV virus. (Like HIV and several cancer-causing viruses, XMRV is a retrovirus. It has also been implicated in prostate cancer.) While I’ve always been able to work full time (though it hasn’t been easy), my condition has been bad enough that since the mid-1990s, I’ve had a Class 5 medical clear- ance, a level that precludes all overseas assignments. I have no complaint about that determination, nor about my many interactions with the Office of Medical Services through the years. I’ve foundMED personnel to be pleas- ant, helpful and professional. However, when medical issues overlap with personnel policies, especially the recruitment and assignments processes, huge problems can arise, some of which I have experienced personally. It’s clear to me that the State De- partment’s Bureau of Human Resources has not come to grips with the fact that some of its most cherished policies discriminate against people with disabilities. This topic has been thoroughly explored through post- ings by numerous employees on the Secretary’s Sounding Board, the department’s internal online discussion forum. W HEN THE MEDICAL CLEARANCE PROCESS INTERSECTS WITH PERSONNEL POLICIES , THE RESULTS CAN BE UNHEALTHY . B Y C AROL S HUH I Carol Shuh, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone and biology teacher at the Universal American School in Kuwait, joined the Foreign Service in 1986 in the consular cone. Her overseas tours were in Kigali and Toronto. Since 1991 she has served inWashington, D.C., in various State Department bureaus. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely her own and do not nec- essarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. government.