Leading with the motto ‘truth and service,' Howard University College of Medicine (HUCM) is a prestigious private medical school established in 1868. The college offers six training programs for future physicians and medical professionals. Today, a sizeable percentage of practicing Black doctors are HUCM alumni, as HUCM is one of the oldest Historically Black Universities in the United States. Being part of HUCM entails maintaining standards of professional conduct that reflect the college's values. As future physicians, students must demonstrate ethical values to gain patient trust, especially when working with underserved communities.
Professional behavior training and building a solid foundation of standards start at medical school, especially one with expectations as high as HUCM. The problem lies when students battle unfounded accusations of professional misconduct, leading to numerous sanctions, including suspension and permanent dismissal. With the help of an attorney advisor, medical students at HUCM can fight baseless allegations to prevent sanctions from having long-term impacts on their future and career.
Core Values and Professional Code
Excellence and integrity are among the core values of HUCM, as are maintaining an ethical environment. HUCM students must abide by the standards of professionalism outlined in Section XI of the student handbook. According to the policy:
“Professionalism in medicine requires the physician to serve the interests of the patient above his or her self-interest. Professionalism aspires to altruism, accountability, excellence, duty, service, honor, integrity, and respect for others.”
Students who want to become future physicians must commit to maintaining high standards in their future practice, the interests of patients, and being responsive to the health needs of society.
The Code of Conduct at Howard reinforces HUCM's principles and outlines responsibilities and conduct expectations for students. Staff members who believe that a student is violating the code may report the issue to the Director of Judicial Affairs if the problem is off-campus. On-campus violations go to the Dean of Student Services. The accuser must list the alleged infarction(s) through the Request for Resolution of an Alleged Violation of the Student Code of Conduct form.
Medical students may accept the penalties imposed by the Director of Judicial Affairs or maintain that they are “Not Responsible.” In the event of a student's rejection, the case escalates to a hearing. Medical students must gather appropriate evidence and witness statements to defend against misconduct allegations before the hearing starts. With the help of an attorney advisor, students can challenge allegations correctly and fight for their rights to receive a favorable case outcome.
In some cases, it's not student behavior that's an issue but poor academic performance. According to the Technical Standards of the College of Medicine, students who don't demonstrate proficiency in technical aspects of their curriculums pose a threat to patient well-being. Fortunately, the student manual maintains that it's the responsibility of professors at HUCM to provide students with an opportunity for remediation and offer constructive, timely feedback.
The course coordinator and department of medicine set the remediation schedule to help students catch up to their peers. Students may use this opportunity to improve their grades before it becomes permanent on their transcript.
Frustration is indeed a natural byproduct of having to take additional remediation courses. Despite their inconvenience, remediation courses are among the few options that failing medical students have if they want to stay enrolled at HUCM.
Expulsion, Dismissal, and Appeals
Extreme or repeated violations at HUCM may lead to suspension, dismissal with the option to reapply, or permanent dismissal. Expelled students may not reapply to the college or Howard University or participate in sponsored events and access university property. An expulsion charge from HUCM remains on file indefinitely. In contrast, lesser sanctions stay on record for a maximum of two years.
Expelled students have to worry about delays to starting their professional careers and the challenges that come with such a charge on their transcript. Just some of the issues that students face after permanent dismissal from their medical programs include:
- Reputation damage: An expulsion from medical school is not a decision taken lightly by college administrations. Students will suffer from reputation damage when they are in bad standing and may have to pursue a different career unrelated to medicine.
- They have fewer placement opportunities at other schools. Students that try to enroll in other medical schools may experience placement challenges, especially at top-tier schools. Admissions officers filter the best candidates among the thousands of applications they receive – and expelled students are not desirable candidates.
- Loss of time and effort. If students do manage to enroll in another program, they must start over. Repeating the same courses and exams delays graduation further and dampens a medical student's enthusiasm and motivation.
- Heavy financial repercussions. Student loans and miscellaneous college expenses take years to pay off after graduation. Expelled students may have to take on additional loans, in addition to paying unexpected out-of-pocket expenditures that place them further in debt.
Students who disagree with the sanctions imposed by HUCM have the right to appeal. The University System of Judiciaries and Code of Conduct review cases relating to behavioral misconduct. However, students must provide a valid reason for the appeal along with supporting documents to receive consideration. If approved, the Dean of the College of Medicine reviews the case and makes a final decision.
Hiring an Attorney-Advisor
Medical students face extraordinary pressure to perform well and keep up with social and familial expectations. Facing remediation, possible suspension, or expulsion due to a lapse in judgment is a harsh yet possible reality that happens at any time.
Attorney Advisor Joseph D. Lento understands the stress that medical students and their families face when fighting an academic issue or professional misconduct charge. With his experience and passion for fighting for student rights, Attorney Lento identifies possible procedural errors, including bias and discrimination.
An academic issue or professional misconduct charge should not lead to a life-changing penalty for medical students. Call the Lento Law Firm today for a no-nonsense consultation at 888-535-3686.