Medical residents across the United States share a common right: to appeal most rulings that impose disciplinary action upon them. This right is one that every resident should exercise. Should you fail to appeal, you may miss the opportunity to reduce or dismiss serious sanctions. Your future in medicine could suffer as a result.
When you invest the time and resources necessary to reach medical residency, you intend to finish the mission. Serious sanctions, including possible suspension or termination from your residency program, are a direct threat to your aspirations as a medical professional. An appeal and related proceedings may be the only recourse for averting a life-changing ruling from your residency program.
An established medical resident attorney-advisor can craft the strongest possible appeal for you. They will work with residency program leadership, seeking a resolution that mitigates harm to you. An appeal may even lead to the dismissal of your case.
When Does an Appeal Become Necessary for Medical Residents?
An appeal is generally necessary whenever a residency program issues an adverse decision against you, the resident. Medical residency issues take many forms, and you may appeal formal sanctions stemming from:
- Alleged academic wrongdoing
- Performance deficits
- Alleged unprofessionalism
- Drug or alcohol-related concerns
- Alleged sexual misconduct
- Any other alleged or failure that is in violation of a residency program's codes of conduct
Any sanction against you causes reputational harm. The hyper-competitive nature of the medical field exacerbates the negative effects of any discipline that you receive during residency.
Termination or suspension from your residency program are especially serious consequences and ones that a residency program may not hesitate to impose. These two sanctions require a robust, comprehensive appeal.
Whether to pursue an appeal is your decision. As a law firm versed in the effects of sanctions on medical professionals, though, we advise that you take advantage of your appeal allowance.
What Happens If You Choose Not to Appeal Sanctions Against You?
It's difficult to gauge the precise effect of an adverse disciplinary ruling during your residency—the ripple effects of such consequences are simply too far-ranging to measure. It's not a stretch to project that an adverse disciplinary decision may:
- Diminish your reputation among the leaders of your residency program, which may affect any honors or recommendations that the program might otherwise bestow upon you
- Be a common theme throughout your job interviews, as sanctions will likely appear on your resident file
- Require you to accept a lesser professional position or even a lesser career path than you initially intended
- Cause you to earn less than you may have without the stigma of disciplinary sanctions
- Present other unforeseen consequences
While you may be a resilient person who is able to overcome disciplinary sanctions issued during residency, you should never accept such adversity willingly. By appealing, you give yourself a chance—no matter how dire your case may seem—to avoid some seriously negative consequences.
Possible Grounds for Appeal
Grounds for appealing a decision by a disciplinary body may include:
- Sanctions that are inconsistent with the alleged offense: If sanctions issued against you exceed the severity of the alleged offense, then you may petition for lesser sanctions.
- Findings inconsistent with the facts of your case: If the disciplinary body reached a conclusion that you believe conflicts with the facts of your case, then you may cite this as grounds for appeal.
- Apparent bias: If you believe that one or more people involved in your case have shown bias, then you have the right to expose such bias during the appeals process.
- Emergence of new evidence: New evidence may have a profound effect on your case, perhaps even changing the final ruling.
- Deviation from procedures: If the disciplinary body (or others involved in your case) deviated from accepted procedures, then you may be entitled to a re-hearing of your case.
Your rationale for filing an appeal may not fit within a single sentence. Often, appeals can encompass an array of injustices. When you file your appeal, your attorney-advisor will have the chance to outline all of the reasons for reconsideration of your case.
Who Will Hear Your Appeal (and Initial Hearing)?
Appeals processes are unique to each residency program. Our team will review your program's policies to determine grounds for appeal, filing deadlines, and the parties who will hear your appeal.
Even though appeal procedures can differ between any two residency programs, there may be common ground. Reviewing the appeal policies of real-world medical residency programs may help you form your own expectations.
Emory University School of Medicine (EUSOM) provides a detailed example of how residency programs may handle an appeal. Though this example applies specifically to termination of residency appointments, it is exemplary of general appeals processes by medical residency programs.
Before pursuing an appeal with Emory University School of Medicine, residents will first answer to a Residency Review Committee. This committee is comprised of:
- The Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education or the Dean's designee
- One department Chair
- One faculty member other than a department Chair
- Two residents
The Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education appoints this Residency Review Committee and serves as Chairperson. This committee will handle an initial disciplinary hearing. If the resident receives an adverse decision during that hearing, then they may file an appeal request with the Dean of the Emory University School of Medicine.
Your university may rely on a similarly diverse board of appointees and faculty to hear your initial case.
Hearings and Appeals Processes at Medical Residency Programs
Emory University School of Medicine continues to serve as an example of residency discipline, including appeals. Before appeals processes unfold, you'll likely complete some form of disciplinary hearing. At EUSOM, the initial hearing entails:
- Presentation of witnesses and evidence
- Cross-examination of witnesses (including questioning by your attorney-advisor)
- Any other steps that the Review Committee deems necessary
The disciplinary body will issue a report of their findings within ten days of completing the hearing. If the decision is unfavorable to the defendant-resident, then they may proceed with their appeal.
At EUSOM, residents and their attorney-advisors must submit a written request for appellate review within seven days of receiving notice of the Residency Review Committee's findings. The Dean of the Emory University School of Medicine or their designee will review the request.
After receiving a resident's appeal request, the Dean will schedule an appellate review to occur between 14 and 30 days after receipt of the request. As part of the appeals process, the petitioner may:
- Submit a written statement: This statement will detail any findings of fact, procedures, or conclusions that the appellant disagrees with. This is where the appellant will make their core case for reversing or reducing an adverse decision. An attorney-advisor is permitted to help the appellant prepare this statement.
- Receive a copy of any statement issued by the parties who are seeking sanctions: One or more parties may issue statements endorsing sanctions against the appellant, and the appellant may receive a copy of any such statements.
- Make oral statements supporting the appeal: An attorney is permitted to make oral arguments and may do so for the appellant or in addition to the appellant.
- Need to answer questions from the Dean, their designee, or an appeal committee: The appeal hearing may develop a back-and-forth nature, which is generally necessary to conduct a thorough review of a case. An attorney-advisor may answer questions on behalf of their client.
- Present, and respond to, any new evidence in the case: An appellate hearing is an opportune time to present any evidence that emerged following the initial hearing. Conversely, an appellant may need to respond to any new evidence that is unfavorable to their case.
Appellants at EUSOM have several rights, including the right to have counsel during the appeals process.
Note that this process will not be identical to your own residency program's appellate procedures—it's simply an example. Your attorney-advisor will work judiciously to determine the procedures that lie ahead of you, including the appeals process.
An Attorney's Role in the Appeals Process
Should you hire one, your attorney-advisor will likely play a central role in your appeals process. Your attorney may also oversee any processes that come before your appeal, like your initial disciplinary hearing.
An attorney can:
- Gather all relevant information about your residency program's disciplinary procedures
- Handle all communication with disciplinary bodies, administrators, and your residency program's Office of General Counsel (OGC)
- Prepare you for hearings, interviews, meetings, and other case-related events
- Review any written statements that you must make
- Vet any oral statements that you must make
- Identify and prepare witnesses
- Obtain evidence and documentation supporting your case
- Draft and file all case-related paperwork, including a request for appeal
- Advise you on all aspects of your case
Your attorney-advisor's influence may extend beyond appeals. An experienced advisor may reach out to your residency program's Office of General Counsel (OGC) in pursuit of a resolution to your case.
Contacting Your Residency Programs' Office of the General Counsel (OGC)
A capable attorney-advisor should be open to negotiating with your residency program's OGC. As one university's literature explains, the Office of General Counsel's role is, among other duties, “addressing and resolving legal disputes.” In fact, your residency program's OGC may want to resolve your case before it becomes a legal dispute.
Your attorney-advisor may explain to the OGC that they are prepared to take legal measures should the program fail to offer a suitable resolution to your case. The OGC may have the authority to settle your case in a reasonable manner or to advise the residency program to reconsider your case.
Your attorney will explore and explain any other options for resolving your case.
Should You Hire an Attorney-Advisor to Lead Your Appeal?
Hiring an attorney-advisor may offer several benefits. When you hire an attorney-advisor for a medical residency issue, you:
- Relinquish stressful, time-consuming aspects of your case to your attorney
- Gain the wisdom of an advisor who has handled medical residency issues before (at least, if you choose the right attorney-advisor)
- Gain a second set of legally trained eyes to review all aspects of your case
- Gain an advocate who will defend your rights throughout the appeals process
An attorney can help no matter what stage your case is in. You may choose to hire an attorney to handle your appeal specifically. You may have acted without an attorney until this point in your case. Or, you may have hired an attorney whose representation proved ineffective. In either case, the Lento Law Firm is ready to help you.
If you already have an attorney that you're not satisfied with, you can make the change to the Lento Law Firm without missing a beat. We'll explain this process when you call our team.
Contact the Lento Law Firm About Your Medical Residency Appeal
The Lento Law Firm specializes in helping those with good intentions who've encountered trouble. As a medical resident, you aspire to help others, and you've pledged time, effort, and emotion to reach your goals in medicine. You deserve someone who will fight for you in your time of need.
When it comes to medical resident issues, experience matters. Joseph D. Lento and his team understand the nuances of residency programs—you're no longer a student, but aren't quite a certified medical professional, either. This unique ground presents legal challenges, and we're prepared to address those challenges for you.
We'll seek a resolution through the most appropriate channels, whether it is an appeal, negotiations with the OGC, or another course of action. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686. You may also contact us online to submit your case details.
Your future in medicine is too important to accept sanctions without a fight. Let our dedicated team handle your appeal and other legal needs.