Medical Student Dismissals

Medical school is an incredible privilege. Medical school can also be an incredible challenge. If they didn't know it before entering medical school, medical students quickly realize how seriously students must take their obligations to learn the science and medical practices that make for competent care. Medical students must succeed on frequent successive medical exams, all pointing toward licensing exams that are the gateway for entering the profession. The many medical graduates who specialize must also prepare for board certification. Medical students can't fake competence. The schools ensure through frequent rigorous assessment that every graduate meets minimum requirements.

Medical school's rigors, and other conditions, events, and circumstances, produce about a three-percent attrition rate across all medical schools, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Three percent may not sound like a lot, but even that small figure represents an enormous loss to the students who made the commitment but didn't succeed in persisting through the program to graduation. And the same story indicates that attrition rates are significantly higher for certain medical-student populations. Medical school dismissals happen. Medical students need to take a realistic view of the causes of and grounds for dismissal, how to avoid dismissal, and how to manage dismissal if it happens.

Medical School Authority to Dismiss

Medical schools certainly have the authority to dismiss a medical student, provided that the school has justifiable grounds. Medical schools build that dismissal authority not only into the tuition, conduct, and professionalism policies that are the foundational terms on which medical schools admit students but also into the curriculum itself. The entire curriculum of medical school unfolds as a series of rigorous classroom and clinical studies, the minimum criteria for which students must meet to advance. The fact that more medical students do not attrit under the pressure of these enormously challenging studies is no doubt due to the very high admission standards for medical schools. To get into medical school, medical students have already proven that they know how to study. Some medical school students simply can't make the grade, but one often has to look to other causes and grounds to explain medical school dismissals. The schools, though, retain clear authority to require medical students to meet their tuition requirements and conduct, professionalism, and academic standards.

Limits on Medical School Authority to Dismiss

Legal Constraints. Fortunately, though, medical schools do not have absolute authority to dismiss students for any reason or no reason at all, on a whim or with caprice. Medical schools commonly face four distinct legal, and several other institutional, constraints on their power to dismiss students. Constitutional due process is the first legal constraint, applicable to public medical schools like those at Ohio State University and the University of Missouri. Due process means that the medical school must give the student notice and a fair hearing before dismissal. Private medical schools like the ones at Northwestern University and Duke University tend to accept similar obligations, which other laws may impose.

The student's contract with the medical school is another source of legal constraint on the school's power to dismiss. Dismissal in bad faith may breach the promise the school makes when it accepts the student's tuition. Administrative law can be another limit to the medical school's power to dismiss. Federal Title IX regulations, for instance, require medical schools to grant certain procedural rights to students whom the schools accuse of certain forms of sexual misconduct. And tort law may grant medical students the right to be free from intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, defamation, and other harms. Medical schools can't get away with anything when dismissing students. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento represents medical and other students nationwide, challenging dismissals that violate student rights.

Institutional Constraints. Medical schools face other internal, institutional limits on their powers to dismiss students. For instance, the school's financial interests tend to favor student retention. The school's reputational interests can also favor student retention, at least in those cases where the student facing dismissal is of good character and reputation, with a supportive alumni or similar network. Schools can get a bad name by kicking students out willy nilly. Medical school departments and faculty members also build their reputations for effective teaching on retention, not attrition. And medical school officials can well understand and appreciate the moral grounds for retaining and teaching students, rather than taking their tuition money, teaching them poorly, and kicking them out at great student cost and loss. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento knows how to advocate these and other internal, institutional grounds for medical students facing dismissal.

Dismissal Causes

Causes Within the Medical Student's Control. Dismissal from medical school ordinarily doesn't just suddenly happen on its own, out of nowhere. Medical students are usually aware of the onset of causes for impending dismissal. Some of those causes are within the medical student's control, such as when they take on too much, fail to prioritize, fail to adjust, or stop the habits and disciplines they know to be necessary to continued success. Medical students can often bounce back from self-inflicted failures before dismissal, as this story from the American Association of Medical Colleges attests. Medical students facing dismissal due to circumstances within their control should consult national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento for his help presenting recovery plans and mitigating circumstances to the school to forestall dismissal.

Causes Outside the Medical Student's Control. Other causes for dismissal can arise from outside the medical student's control. Principal among those causes is illness or injury, either of the medical student or a family member dependent on the medical student's care. International students might encounter visa trouble. Some medical students have a sudden unexpected financial loss, loss of loans or aid, or other financial disruptions threatening their ability to proceed. Medical schools can, with the student's involvement and advocacy, often work with the student to help the student navigate external challenges. National academic attorney Joseph Lento helps students negotiate with school officials for realistic plans to overcome those external challenges before dismissal happens.

Causes Not Attributable to the Medical Student at All. While academic attorney representation can certainly help a medical student avoid dismissal based on causes within or outside the student's control, national academic attorney Joseph Lento's critical service is to help students avoid or correct dismissal when the causes the school mistakenly discerns are not attributable to the student at all. Medical schools make academic, administrative, financial, and procedural mistakes, any of which can result in an innocent, earnest, and competent student's erroneous dismissal. Medical school officials can also, on occasion, act harshly, unfairly, and capriciously in dismissing a student, whether for no cause at all or in a discriminatory or retaliatory fashion. National academic attorney Joseph Lento has the litigation and trial skills, and academic experience, to gather, organize, and present the evidence proving erroneous dismissal. Don't let your medical school treat you unfairly. Help is available.

Medical School Codes Imposing Dismissal

Medical schools routinely maintain codes of professional conduct to which they expect their students to conform on penalty of sanction up to dismissal. Medical school codes of professional conduct, like this one at Duke University School of Medicine, draw on several sources for their prescriptions and proscriptions of student conduct. The first source is the college or university conduct code, including not just behavioral and academic misconduct provisions but also the school's Title IX sexual misconduct policy. A second source for medical school conduct standards is national and state accrediting and licensing standards. A third source is the ethical code of national and state medical associations. Medical school codes like the one at Duke's School of Medicine can also draw procedural rights and responsibilities from the civil justice system. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento can help medical students discern the authority that the student's school is applying or purporting to apply when threatening a student with dismissal.

Grounds for Medical School Dismissal

Medical school codes of professional conduct, and the college or university codes, accrediting and licensing standards, and professional association principles to which they refer, together enumerate common academic, behavioral, and professional grounds on which to discipline students up to dismissal. Common academic grounds on which a medical student could suffer dismissal include:

  • repeated failures to prepare for courses, labs, and clinical rounds;
  • repeated failures to complete required readings and coursework;
  • repeated failures to complete and pass block term or board exams;
  • repeated withdrawals and incompletes in attempted courses;
  • failing to enroll for minimum required credits in consecutive terms;
  • failing to make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation;
  • failing to complete clinical hours within the time allotted; and
  • repeated substandard clinical performance.

The foregoing academic grounds may present the medical student's greatest challenge. Yet medical students can also exhibit behavioral issues exacerbated by the pressures and stresses of medical school. Behavioral grounds on which a medical student could suffer dismissal include:

  • alcohol abuse, drug abuse, impaired concentration and attention from sleeplessness or depression, and other addictions or irregular behaviors often associated with stress;
  • Title IX sexual misconduct including sexual violence, harassment, or quid pro quo favors, or non-Title IX sexual misconduct including voyeurism, exposure, and prostitution; and
  • non-sexual threats and violence, theft, conversion, vandalism, trespass, and misuse of school computers such as in hacking or with pornography or cyber-bullying.

The professionalism grounds on which medical students could suffer discipline up to dismissal include:

  • failing to obtain patient consent to the medical care provided;
  • exceeding the scope of patient consent without authorizing emergency;
  • recommending or providing unnecessary medical testing or services;
  • misrepresenting the therapy, treatment, or procedure to the patient;
  • providing medical care or attempting medical care while impaired;
  • abandoning a medical patient without stabilizing the patient's condition;
  • refusing critical emergency care when on duty to provide it;
  • failing to report abuse or neglect of a child patient as law requires;
  • harassing nurses, aides, or other subordinates, disrupting care;
  • using medical practice to coerce undue advantages from patients; and
  • ringing the profession into ill repute through acts of violence or passion.

What Medical School Dismissal Means

Dismissal from medical school can devastate a student's medical career and education. Typically, the dismissed medical student cannot re-enroll or restart at the school. Dismissal is often permanent. The dismissed student also faces enormous challenges gaining transfer or admission to another medical school, especially if the dismissal had to do with unexplained academic failures, bad character, and lack of fitness. Of course, dismissal without a medical degree means the student cannot qualify for licensing as a practicing physician. Dismissal thus means loss of physician employment and career. Dismissal also brings loss of financial aid and scholarships, and acceleration of educational debt for payment. A dismissed medical student living in university housing and depending on university medical insurance will also lose those privileges. International students studying on a visa can lose legal residency. These are the primary losses dismissal from medical school brings.

Avoiding Medical School Dismissal

Avoiding dismissal, though, is often possible, especially with prompt representation from national academic attorney Joseph Lento. The medical student facing dismissal must take the threat of dismissal seriously, retaining the best available counsel and prioritizing the matter. Attorney Lento helps students nationwide strategize to adopt and implement the best plan to avoid dismissal, depending on the cause and grounds, and school policies, and procedures. Remember that medical schools have substantial interests in retaining students. Dismissal, although possible, is usually far from a foregone conclusion. Retaining attorney Lento demonstrates to the school that the student is serious about addressing the concerns and negotiating sensible and achievable remedial plans and actions. Often, all the medical student facing dismissal needs is a clear mind, skilled advocate, and experienced negotiator in the student's corner.

Options After Dismissal

A medical student who suffers dismissal usually still has one or more good options to regain the student's footing in the medical program. The first option is appeal. Medical schools routinely grant appeals from the initial dismissal decision, usually to a dean or panel of highest school officials who take a fresh perspective. Appeals require showing reversible error in the initial decision, which is a skill for national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento, not for the student suffering dismissal. Analyzing the record and drafting an effective appeal brief are tasks for a skilled academic attorney, not for just any lawyer, nor for medical students. If an appeal is not available or successful, colleges and universities sometimes grant authority to others, such as an ombudsman or general counsel, to grant relief from dismissal in special cases. Litigation may be another option. Courts have held medical schools accountable to their legal and contractual duties. As a last resort, national academic attorney Joseph Lento has also helped dismissed students negotiate terms with the dismissal school, giving the student a better record on which to proceed in another educational program or career field.

Retain the Best Available Representation

To the incredibly accomplished and hardworking medical student, the prospect for dismissal must loom like an academic catastrophe. That immobilizing fear is a big part of the dismissal problem. The last thing a medical student should do when facing dismissal is freeze, ignore it, or hide from it. Instead, be as proactive as possible. Retain national academic attorney Joseph Lento to advise you about your best options and to advocate and negotiate with the medical school on your behalf. Attorney Lento's expert representation has helped hundreds of medical students nationwide avoid, reverse, or overcome school dismissal. Retain the expert team at the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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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 our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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