Since its beginnings in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has had a legacy for moving the field of medicine forward, becoming the second medical school in the nation to graduate a woman doctor in 1854. Today, CWRU-SOM (also nicknamed “CaseMed”) is the top-ranked research medical school in Ohio, and among the Top 25 medical schools in the United States. Students are held to high academic, professional and ethical standards as detailed in the Medical Student Handbook and the University Student Code of Conduct.
A successful career in medicine begins with a strong commitment to the highest ideals of academia, ethical and professional dealings, and a pristine academic record can open the door to many career advancement opportunities. Conversely, disciplinary actions can tarnish a student's record and have lasting impacts on the trajectory of their career in medicine. In addressing allegations of academic shortcomings or professional misconduct, having an experienced attorney-advisor in one's corner can make a significant difference in making sure the school protocols are properly followed and that the student's rights and reputation are protected.
CaseMed's Guiding Principles and Code of Conduct
The CaseMed Medical Student Handbook opens with a Statement of Ethics that encapsulates its expectations for student behavior and performance: “The University's mission rests on the premise of intellectual honesty in the classroom, the laboratory, the office, and the solitary examination desk. Without a prevailing ethic of honor and integrity, not only in scientific pursuits, but in all scholarly activity, the very search for knowledge is impaired.”
CWRU has published separate policies on Codes of Conduct for Academic and Behavioral Integrity, either of which may result in disciplinary action for violations, but which go through different disciplinary channels. Serious allegations may be submitted for investigation and an administrative hearing by the appropriate board before discipline is rendered. Sanctions may be as simple as a written warning or probation, or as devastating as suspension or expulsion.
Sanctions and Discipline
Medical students found by board review to be in serious violation of academic or behavioral misconduct may be subject to several different sanctions, some of which may reflect poorly on their permanent record. On the lenient end of the spectrum are written warnings and disciplinary probation, while more severe sanctions may include restitution, loss of privileges, or loss of University Housing, all the way to suspension or expulsion. The school provides an appeals process for students before disciplinary action becomes finalized.
A career in medicine is one of high public trust, and physicians are expected to excel in knowledge, skill, and ethical standards. To this end, medical schools typically require intensive schedules and high academic standards that even the most committed students may struggle to meet. Remediation protocols are built into the academic process for students who don't meet the criteria to pass certain components of their educational path. Remediation may also be an important option for rectifying other forms of academic shortfalls, both to ensure the student truly qualifies for a career in medicine and to protect the student's overall academic record.
Remediation is not a convenient option. It can cost additional time and money, and in some cases remediation may even be disputed. However, in situations where the alternative is dismissal from the school, it can essentially save the student's future career.
Consequences of Dismissal
Dismissal, or permanent separation from the school, is an outcome the medical student should try to avoid at all costs. Aside from the personal humiliation and loss, dismissal or expulsion can result in a cascade of problems that ultimately jeopardize the student's medical career. Examples of possible consequences include:
- Difficulties resuming an educational path. Given the stringent admission requirements most medical schools have in place, a student previously dismissed from med school isn't likely to have top priority.
- Academic losses. Dismissal usually negates all academic work completed up to that point. Assuming the student can re-enroll elsewhere, no credits will transfer, meaning the student must re-take all courses from the beginning.
- Possible huge debt burdens. If the student took large student loans to fund a medical education, those debts will still be due even if the student is dismissed—without any guarantee of a medical career with which to pay the loans back.
Appealing Disciplinary Action
A student facing suspension, expulsion or other disciplinary actions has the right to lodge an appeal before any penalty becomes final. Appeals may include anything from challenging a bad grade to questioning the fairness of a sanction. Students under scrutiny should always avail themselves of the appeals process. In cases of possible dismissal, it can literally save their career.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
Given the inherent pressure on medical schools to remain above reproach while enforcing the highest possible standards, there are times when schools enact discipline that is disproportionately harsh and ultimately detrimental to the student's otherwise pristine record. Retaining experienced advisory representation in such cases helps the medical student understand disciplinary provisions and expectations while keeping the school accountable to afford due process.
Joseph Lento can help medical students navigate the difficult waters of academic or professional misconduct allegations. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today for more information.