Incoming dental students usually know they'll be facing rigorous academic standards. The application process offers a pretty good indication of just what's expected from you in the classroom. Students are sometimes surprised, though, to learn just how serious their school's ethical and professional standards are. The fact is, it's easy to wind up in both academic and disciplinary trouble. The question is, how do you deal with trouble when it comes your way?
The life of a dentist isn't an easy one. You'll be expected to be a lifelong learner, to keep up with every new technique and new technology. As a medical professional, you'll essentially be on call twenty-four hours a day. You may have to work with patients you don't like, but you'll still be expected to treat them with dignity and respect. Your dental school wants you to understand all this right from the start.
Expectations are particularly high at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. A school founded on “Christian Values,” Loma Linda's motto is “Service is our calling.” That suggests your personal behaviors may be judged even more rigidly than your academic performance.
High expectations are important. We all want to believe that the person with their hands in our mouths is smart and capable and that they have our best interests in mind. None of us is perfect, though. The simple truth is, life happens. Maybe you're in a fender bender on the way home one night, and you don't have time to study for the big exam the next day. Maybe you party a little too hard to celebrate the end of the term and wind up in a bar brawl. Mistakes like these shouldn't cost you your future. One of the most important things to know as a dental student, then, is what to do when trouble comes calling.
Academic Standards at LLUSD
Dental school isn't like college. You're under scrutiny from start to finish, and promotion from one term to the next isn't automatic. Stumble even a little, and you could find yourself making up coursework, dealing with the hassle of academic probation, or even being dismissed from the program entirely.
At LLUSD, decisions about your progress are in the hands of the school's academic review committee. This committee meets at the end of every semester to evaluate every student's record. To move forward, you're expected to maintain a 2.0 GPA and pass all of your courses in a given term. Fail a course, and you'll be asked to complete a remediation program or retake the course. This could impact your ability to stay on track with your cohort, and it could interfere with your financial aid. In addition, the committee has the power to expel students who consistently fall behind.
You do have the right to appeal academic review committee decisions to the Dean. However, the LLUSD catalog notes that such appeals are “not expected to be routine” and “should be considered only in circumstances where new and relevant information exists that was not available for consideration by the Academic Review Committee.” In short, if you need to appeal an academic sanction, you'll definitely face an uphill battle.
Maintaining Professional Standards
LLUSD's ethical and professional standards are actually more rigorous than its academic standards, and mistakes are punished more severely. Not only are you expected to abide by the American Dental Association's code of ethics, and all civil laws, but in keeping with Loma Linda's religious mission, you are expected to conduct yourself in ways that are “compatible with the standards of morality and propriety of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Rules govern everything from how you treat patients to how you dress and when you attend religious services.
LLUSD's Student Handbook lists a wide range of potential sanctions for violations of its professional standards policy, including such minor penalties as warnings and censure. However, the reality is that if you should break a rule, the likely minimum sanction is suspension. Dismissal is the more probable outcome.
Here again, you may appeal a disciplinary sanction to the Dean, and, in this case, you are entitled to a hearing. However, the school provides few due process protections during the hearing and investigation. In fact, you're not even allowed to bring legal representation with you to proceedings. This fact, in and of itself, offers an important reason why you should retain a lawyer. The more a school seeks to limit your rights, the more you need an attorney to monitor the situation and make sure you get the justice you deserve.
How Can an Attorney Help You?
By this point, you may already have a good idea of why having a lawyer can be so important if you find yourself in trouble as a dental student. However, you don't have to be facing dismissal to make good use of an attorney. An attorney who understands dental school processes and has experience advising students can help in a number of ways, both large and small.
- Evaluating remediation plans: Remediation plans serve as an important safety net for dental students. However, remediation can be costly, both in terms of time and money, and you may have better options. For instance, it is often easier to simply appeal your original grade in a course. Your school may not tell you about options like this. An attorney, one who understands how dental schools work, will. They can also help guide you through the process.
- Cleaning up your transcript: If you should find yourself in trouble, academically or otherwise, you will want to do everything you can to keep it off your transcript. Probation, suspension—even a warning—can damage your future if it winds up on your transcript. Sanctions can interfere with your financial aid; they can prevent you from getting internships and fellowships; they can keep you from getting that all-important first job. A skilled attorney can help keep negative comments out of your record and may even be able to get past comments removed.
- Avoiding dismissal: No sanction is as serious as dismissal. It's hard enough to be asked to leave your program, but you also have to face the likelihood that your dental career is over. You'll find it hard to find another school willing to take you if you already have a dismissal on your record. Even if you do manage to find another place in another program, you'll have to start at the beginning, and your original dismissal will remain as a permanent black mark on your record. It's always in your best interest, then, to fight a dismissal. An attorney can help you plan your defense strategy, work with you to gather evidence and draft documents, and help you prepare to present your case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
An attorney can be an invaluable resource during dental school, but that doesn't mean you can just turn to any local or family attorney. You need someone familiar with dental school curricula and procedures. You need someone who understands the law as it applies to higher education. You need someone practiced in talking to faculty and administrators.
You need Joseph D. Lento.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney who specializes in defending students in campus judicial cases. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students in all types of cases. He knows the law, and he's a passionate defender of student rights.
If you're facing a sanction from your dental school, trust your case to someone who knows dental schools. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.