First established in 1892, the Creighton University School of Medicine is a Jesuit-run private medical school in Omaha, Nebraska. Since 2012, the School of Medicine has also operated a satellite campus in Phoenix, AZ, making it the only Jesuit medical school in operation west of Omaha. The school also has a very high bar for admission, accepting less than 3 percent of its applicants.
Because public trust is essential to the practice of medicine, a medical student's entire career may hinge on their academic record. Stellar marks can open a wide range of career doors; conversely, disciplinary marks and adverse actions noted on one's Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) can restrict a student's career options. For any medical student facing unfair accusations of professional/academic misconduct or other concerns, an experienced attorney-advisor's involvement can be an essential part of rescuing the student's career.
Student Statement of Values
Students enrolled at Creighton University School of Medicine are held to the highest academic and professional excellence standards as detailed in the Student Statement of Values, the official professional code of the medical school. The Statement of Values centers on the upholding of four fundamental principles:
- Personal Honor, Integrity, and Truthfulness;
- Duty to Others; and
Academic and professional performance are both monitored by the Student Advancement Committee under the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. Allegations of misconduct in these areas are taken seriously and may be subject to review and investigation by the Advancement Committee. If a medical student fails to meet minimum academic standards or is found to have violated the terms of the Student Statement of Values, the committee may recommend disciplinary actions that include probation, remediation, suspension, or even dismissal. At Creighton University School of Medicine, even being placed on academic probation may appear as an “Adverse Action” on the student's MSPE, reflecting poorly on them for future career prospects.
Between the high minimum academic standards and strenuous course loads of medical school, it's not uncommon even for the most committed medical students to struggle academically at times. To help students “right the ship,” Creighton University School of Medicine provides remedial options for students who are underperforming academically. Remediation may also be prescribed for students who fail to meet the school's standards of professional conduct.
Students facing remediation must follow the specified guidance of the Advancement Committee to be restored to full status. The School of Medicine has two designations for students under remediation:
- “Under Review”—students' remedial plan monitored by the Advancement Committee for one year, no Adverse Action
- “Probation Status”—students' progress monitored by the Advancement Committee for a pre-specified period of time, noted as an Adverse Action in the student's MSPE.
Since even probation can damage a medical student's performance record, it's in the student's best interest to avoid remediation if possible. In many cases, this can be accomplished by a successful grade dispute, especially if the student can provide evidence as to why the grade was issued unfairly. However, in cases where the alternative is dismissal, remediation may serve as the less damaging option.
A medical student may be dismissed from Creighton University School of Medicine for failing “to maintain acceptable ethical, professional, academic, or clinical standards.” Not only can dismissal be catastrophic to a medical student's career options, but it can also result in a cascade effect of complications, including the following:
- Limited re-enrollment options. Medical students often don't get a second chance at medical school once dismissed. Given the stringent acceptance standards of most schools, a dismissed student is rarely considered a high-priority candidate.
- Loss of academic progress. If a dismissed medical student does manage to re-enroll elsewhere, he/she can count on having to start over from the beginning.
- Crushing student debt. If the student took out student loans to pay for medical school, those loans must now be repaid without the prospect of a physician's salary. For some medical students, a combined debt exceeding $100,000 is not uncommon.
Appealing Adverse Actions
In disciplinary cases where the Advancement Committee recommends a repeat of a school year, withdrawal, suspension, or dismissal, the student has the right to appeal the case before the penalty is finalized, at which point a Review Committee will review the decision. Students have only ten days to file an appeal, and the school will only entertain appeals made on the following grounds:
- Failure of the Advancement Committee to follow established procedure and due process; or
- Introduction of new evidence (not available during the investigation) of a previously undiagnosed medical condition or personal/family hardship that affected the student's conduct.
If the student faces dismissal, it's critical to present a compelling, well-prepared appeal as this may be the final opportunity for the student to rescue his/her career.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
Given the intense public pressure on medical schools to maintain high standards and a reputation beyond reproach, it's predictable that this pressure sometimes results in the unfair treatment of a medical student in the name of swift justice. In many cases, what would normally be viewed as a misunderstanding of the facts can escalate into unfair discipline and denial of due process—resulting in the derailing of the student's career prospects. Hiring an attorney-advisor to help with these types of hearings and other concerns can ensure the student's rights are protected and that he/she has the proper resources to build an effective defense against unfair proceedings or penalties. Quite often, the involvement of the attorney-advisor results in saving the student's professional reputation and career.
Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping medical students navigate through school-related issues and concerns, including allegations of academic or professional misconduct. If you're facing unfair actions from a medical school, don't risk your future by going it alone. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.