The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM) was first established in 1951 as the UCLA School of Medicine, then changed its name in 2002 when music/film mogul David Geffen donated $200 million in unrestricted funds to the school's endowment. (Mr. Geffen has since donated $100 million more.) Today, DGSOM hosts an enrollment of 750 students and 1300 residents. A major hub for medical research, it ranks third in the nation for research dollars received.
As the youngest of the top ten medical schools in the nation, DGSOM is also highly selective, accepting only about 2.4 percent of applicants. As such, for those who are accepted into the program, the stakes could not be higher. A stellar academic record is key to opening up career opportunities in medicine, especially at a school this prestigious. Conversely, disciplinary action for academic or professional misconduct can do great potential harm to a medical student's career prospects. When facing discipline, medical students would do well to hire an attorney advisor to ensure their rights are protected and give them a better chance to clear their names and save their careers.
Professionalism Policy and Honor Code
DGSOM holds its students to high standards of academic and professional excellence, as expressed in its Professionalism Policy and Codes of Student Conduct. Their Professionalism Policy is built on four pillars:
- A commitment to professional excellence
- Integrity, demonstrating exemplary moral and ethical character
- Intellectual and academic honesty
- Respect and compassion for others
Also, medical students are expected to agree to an Honor Code that lays out rules of Academic Honesty, Confidentiality, Respect for Others, Responsibility, and Integrity.
Academic progress issues are monitored and reviewed by the Committee on Academic Standing, Progress, and Promotion (CASPP); cases of professional misconduct are referred to the Course Chair, and if necessary, to the Office of Student Conduct. The Dean investigates and makes the final determination on all disciplinary matters, and may call hearings with the Student Conduct Committee in determining whether misconduct occurred. Disciplinary sanctions for academic or professional misconduct may range from written admonitions and academic probation to suspension, dismissal, or revocation of degree.
The coursework demands and high academic standards of medical school can be challenging to meet, even for the most dedicated students. If a student fails to keep up with the coursework or minimum grade levels, he/she may be subject to dismissal on recommendation from the CASPP. As an alternative, the CASPP may recommend a course of remediation to help students get back on track, often accompanied by academic probation. Students on probation have 12 months to improve their academic or professional standing or face possible dismissal.
Sometimes a medical student can avoid remediation or probation with a successful appeal to the Academic Performance Committee (APC). However, when the alternative is dismissal, remediation can serve as a lifeline for the student's future career in medicine.
Continued academic shortfalls can result in dismissal from DGSOM. So can incidents of academic or professional misconduct. By UCLA policy, dismissal means termination of enrollment “for an indefinite period.” Students may be considered for readmission “only under exceptional circumstances.”
Being dismissed from medical school not only throws the student's entire career into question—but it also presents a compounding set of challenges for the student. These may include:
- Difficulty re-enrolling. Whether a student successfully applies for readmission to DGSOM or another medical school, a dismissed student generally isn't considered a high-priority candidate considering the high admissions standards and sheer numbers of applicants.
- Loss of academic progress. Provided the student manages to re-enroll, a dismissal may effectively erase any previous academic progress, meaning the student will have to re-take months or even years of courses at additional time and expense.
- Insurmountable debt. Student loans must still be repaid when a student is dismissed. For medical students, these loans can easily top $100,000, and with a physician's salary now possibly out of reach, the amount of debt may cause serious financial hardship.
Students who face disciplinary action have the right to appeal the decision before it becomes final. For violations of the Student Conduct Code, the student must file an appeal to the Vice Chancellor within five days of the ruling, citing and proving grounds that the sanction is “substantially disproportionate” to the severity of the violation. For academic disciplinary matters within DGSOM, the student has 30 days to file an appeal with the CASPP, citing new information previously unavailable, evidence of discrimination or procedural errors, or evidence that the committee acted arbitrarily.
When applicable, the medical student facing dismissal should avail himself/herself of the appeals process and present as thorough a case as possible, as it may be the final opportunity to rescue the student's career.
Attorney Advisor for Medical Students
Given the constant pressure faced by medical schools to maintain exemplary standards and an irreproachable reputation, it's not unusual for students to face unfair or disproportionate discipline or to be denied due process. Unfortunately, misunderstandings such as these can result in jeopardizing a student's entire future in medicine, not to mention the lost time and tuition. Hiring an experienced attorney advisor for assistance in disciplinary proceedings can go a long way toward protecting the student's right to due process—and in many cases, it can save his/her reputation and career.
For many years, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have been providing skilled advisory counsel for students facing academic issues, discipline, and all school-related concerns. Call (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.