Medical Student Defense - Sanford School of Medicine, Vermilion, SD

The University of South Dakota (USD) Sanford School of Medicine was established back in 1907. Since then, Sanford School of Medicine has enjoyed an excellent reputation, and in 2017 the school was awarded the 2017 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service.

The public places enormous trust and responsibility in medical practitioners, and a graduate with an untarnished academic and professional record will find a world of opportunities in the field of medicine. However, a medical student with issues progressing in their course, perhaps facing remediation or dismissal, can quickly see those opportunities dwindle.

If your medical school has taken issue with your attendance, performance, or progress, has concerns about your professionalism, or suspects you of academic misconduct, your future in medicine is under threat.

Having invested so much as a medical student or a parent of a student, you cannot gamble with your future. If you are a medical student facing disciplinary action, securing an experienced attorney-advisor who is well-versed in school proceedings can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Student Conduct Code

Each medical student must abide by the rules of the university and the rules of the medical school, and meet the standards of academic performance. As a professional program, the doctor of medicine (M.D) degree also comes with professional as well as academic standards which students must meet. Academic medicine is a public trust, and so the academic, professional, and ethical standards to which medical students are held are more exacting than in other fields.

At matriculation, students sign the Professional Conduct Code, pledging to “recognize that the practice of medicine is a great privilege” and promising to “maintain the honor” of the profession and not to engage in “academic dishonesty, misrepresentation, harassment, discrimination or other forms of unprofessional conduct.”

The USD Sanford School of Medicine holds students to high standards of integrity, and if the school suspects a student has violated the student conduct code, they will investigate thoroughly. Should they find a student has violated this code, the school may impose any number of disciplinary sanctions, from reprimands and probation to suspension or expulsion.


Many students encounter an academic failure at some point in their time in medical school. The heavy workload and rigorous demands of the course mean that even the best students can fall behind. This reality means that medical schools often have to offer some kind of academic support for struggling students, giving them an opportunity to improve before dismissing them. Remediation is the process by which students are given a formal opportunity to improve, so they meet the necessary standard to continue on their course.

However, schools are discretionary and often secretive about what remedial solutions they can and do offer. The Sanford School of Medicine specifies in its policies that the Faculty reserve the right to modify remediation offerings based on individual circumstances.

Elements of remediation at the Sanford School of Medicine include the following:

  • Identifying deficiency in academic progress
  • Feedback
  • Developing an individualized learning plan
  • Learning activities and feedback
  • Re-testing

The school will also try to identify and address and issues confounding the academic underperformance, including any health or external factors affecting the student.

Remedial measures can include being given the opportunity to repeat rotations or resit examinations. In the first instance, students who need to retake examinations will meet with the Clerkship Site Director to discuss a study plan. After repeat failures, students will be referred to the Medical Student Academic Performance Committee. Beyond this point, remedial measures are at the committee's discretion. Measures will be customized to the individual student and may include repeating a failed course or even repeating a year.

Repeating large chunks of your course will come at considerable unplanned time and cost for students. However, a remedial opportunity can forestall and prevent academic dismissal and save your career. The level of discretion the school has in these matters makes it especially important that you make a good case for yourself. You need to demonstrate to the school that you are fit and capable for a career in medicine and properly demonstrate any extenuating circumstances. An attorney-advisor can give you your best chance of remaining in medical school and safeguarding your career.


There can be different tiers of disciplinary action at The University of South Dakota, including both instructor-led, departmental faculty, and university level. If you have violated the Code of Professional Conduct, you could face disciplinary sanctions from written warnings to dismissal from the medical school. It is possible to be ejected from your course but permitted to enroll in another course at the university. More egregious offenses will see you barred from the campus or have your degree revoked.

Permanent expulsion is the worst possible outcome for students. You will not be able to gain your M.D degree or proceed to postgraduate medical education. Dismissed medical students will have a difficult time re-enrolling elsewhere because of the stringent standards demanded by medical schools. Even if the student does succeed in re-enrolling elsewhere, they could face years of extra study, all of which will have to be paid for. Worst still, the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans borrowed against the promise of a doctor's salary will not be written off if you are dismissed from medical school.


Any student enrolled in the Sanford Medical School is entitled to the opportunity to seek redress with an appeal if the school did not correctly follow their policies while disciplining you. Indeed if you feel that the school has discriminated against you or violated your rights in any way, you can and should pursue a grievance. In many cases, this might be your final chance to restore your prospects and your good name. However, this option is only open to you for a short window.

Should you wish to file an appeal, you must submit your appeal in writing within 30 calendar days of receipt of either a written resolution to a grievance or a decision by the Medical Student Academic Performance Committee. If you are appealing against your school's disciplinary action, you most likely have only one last chance to fight for your future. If this is the case, it is wise to take no risks with your school's complex appeals process and hire an attorney-advisor.

Hiring an Attorney-Advisor

If your place in medical school is threatened, an experienced attorney-advisor can help you present your best defense and protect your right to due process. Often, this added support is sufficient to restore your future and good name.

Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped countless students navigate difficult disciplinary and academic proceedings at medical schools all across the country. If you are facing adverse actions from your medical school, don't go it alone. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to see how we can help you today.

Contact Us Today!

If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.