First established in 1851, Georgetown University School of Medicine was initially founded by four Catholic doctors in response to discriminatory practices at another nearby medical school. Today, the school is part of the massive Georgetown University Medical Center, a major center for medical research and the birthplace of the HPV vaccine. It is also the oldest Catholic medical school in the U.S.
In addition to its stringent admissions policies (accepting only 2.9 percent of applicants), Georgetown University School of Medicine holds its students to exceptionally high standards of academic and ethical excellence. Issues regarding academic and behavioral misconduct are addressed by the appropriate Deans and the Committee on Students.
The decision to pursue a career in medicine requires a wholehearted commitment to high academic performance and the high level of professionalism required to gain public trust. For this reason, a pristine school record is key to future advancement. When allegations of misconduct threaten to tarnish that record, a student risks having more limited options down the road. In such situations, an experienced attorney advisor can play a critical role in helping the student achieve a positive outcome and protect their reputation.
Code of Ethics
Georgetown University has adopted a university-wide Code of Ethical Conduct by which all students must abide, including students in the School of Medicine. The Code of Ethical Conduct covers four categories:
- People and Community—showing respect for others while maintaining personal respect and accountability.
- Honesty and Integrity—conducting research and academic pursuits honestly and truthfully, avoiding conflicts of interest.
- Protection and Care—demonstrating a commitment to community health and safety, protecting confidential information, using university resources responsibly.
- Duty and Responsibility—complying with University policies and the law, reporting misconduct.
The school also upholds a Student Code of Professionalism and requires students to sign a pledge to that effect.
When a complaint is lodged against a student for ethical, professional, or academic misconduct, the Committee on Students will appoint a panel to investigate the allegations. Findings of misconduct may result in disciplinary action, which can range from warnings and probation to suspension and expulsion.
The academic requirements and schedule at medical school can be very demanding—so much so that even highly committed students may have trouble keeping up from time to time. In such cases, remediation programs may provide a helpful solution to academic shortfalls or issues which might negatively affect a student's grades, records, or promotability. Remediation can help a medical student fulfill the school requirements and demonstrate the qualifications and characteristics the student needs for a career in medicine.
Remediation isn't always the best course of action. It costs the student additional time and money, and it may be unnecessary in cases where poor performance is in dispute. Sometimes a student can remove the remediation requirement by challenging grades and defending academic performance. That said, if a student is facing dismissal for academic shortfalls, remediation may be the best alternative for ensuring the student can continue on a medical career path.
Consequences of Dismissal
Being dismissed from medical school over issues of academic shortfalls or professionalism can have devastating, far-reaching effects for the student. Once dismissal occurs, it can be difficult if not impossible to get the student's medical career back on track. In addition, dismissal can create a slew of other complications, including:
- Financial hardship. With no medical degree to show for all the money spent on education, the student may face dismal career prospects, not to mention a mountain of student debt that must still be repaid.
- Challenges in re-enrolling. If the student still wishes to pursue a career in medicine, their options may be restricted. Most medical schools set high bars for acceptance, and a student previously dismissed will not be considered a priority candidate.
- Loss of academic progress. Assuming the student can resume studies elsewhere, all academic progress must be presumed lost due to the dismissal. The student will have to retake all courses—at additional expense.
Students who face disciplinary action have the right to appeal the decision before it becomes final. In cases where the outcome is dismissal, a successful appeal may literally save the student's career prospects. At Georgetown, the appeals window for disciplinary action is only 7 days, so students who wish to invoke their rights must act quickly to avoid forfeiting the opportunity.
If the stakes are high for students seeking a medical career, they are just as high for the schools that train them. Medical schools face constant pressure and scrutiny to maintain high standards and enforce professional and ethical codes. The pressure to stay above reproach may sometimes fall back onto the student in the form of inappropriately harsh sanctions and unfair disciplinary records—which can follow the student for years to come. Hiring an experienced attorney in an advisory capacity can help to mitigate these risks in situations of alleged misconduct, ensuring the student is availed of all rights to fairness during the investigation, and if necessary, during the appeals process.
Joseph Lento can provide much-needed help for medical students whose futures hang in the balance due to disciplinary action. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today for more information on how we can help.