From its founding in 1964, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSUCHM) sought to be the nation's first medical school integrated with the needs of the local community. Today, MSUCHM anchors multiple campuses across the state from its main campus in East Lansing, Michigan, hosting an enrollment of more than 800 students.
As a school that accepts only 4 percent of its applicants, MSUCHM holds its students to exceptionally high standards of academic progress and professional behavior. For the medical student, a solid academic record is key to opening doors for future career opportunities, and disciplinary actions taken by the school may tarnish that record and put those opportunities in jeopardy. In situations where a student faces discipline for academic or professional misconduct, the involvement of a skilled attorney advisor can make a profound difference in protecting the student's career prospects.
The Virtuous Professional and Code of Honor
To ensure medical students develop professional and ethical habits in keeping with the public trust, MSUCHM has developed a code of professionalism known as the "Virtuous Professional" as summarized below:
"The College of Human Medicine embodies the Virtuous Professional, supported by 1) "CHM" Virtues of Courage, Humility and Mercy, 2) Professional Responsibilities including competence, honesty, compassion, respect of others, professional responsibility and social responsibility; and 3) the Process of Professional Growth: dialogue, reflection and practice."
In addition, medical students are expected to abide by MSU's Code of Honor, taking the following pledge upon matriculation:
"As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do."
Accusations of misconduct or academic integrity breaches are taken seriously. Still, at the same time, the school gives the student ample opportunities to clear their name as the complaint may make its way through several hearing bodies along the chain. Depending on the nature of the offense or the number of offenses, hearing bodies may recommend sanctions that range from warnings and probation to suspension or dismissal.
Given the demands of medical school coursework and academic standards, it can be difficult even for the most astute medical students to keep pace or keep their grades at acceptable levels. The Student Competence Committee regularly reviews student performance, measuring it against school standards to make sure students are maintaining decent grades and performance. In situations where a student is not performing as expected, the school may recommend a plan of remediation to help get the student back on track.
Students are given a set procedure for grade appeals in attempts to avert failing grades, and in many cases, this may avoid the need for costly, time-consuming remediation. However, since significant shortfalls may result in dismissal from the school, remediation can also be a key to rescuing the student's medical career.
MSUCHM may dismiss students for significant academic shortfalls or academic or behavioral misconduct. Dismissal from medical school should be avoided by any means possible, as it has the potential to derail a student's career prospects completely. Not only does the student face the humiliation of dismissal itself, but it can also result in compounding difficulties moving forward. These may include:
- An inability to re-enroll elsewhere. Medical schools have strict admissions standards, and a student who has previously been dismissed is not usually considered a high-priority candidate.
- Loss of academic progress. Provided the student does get re-enrolled or reinstated, a dismissal usually erases the academic progress already made. The student will have to repeat months or years of course work at added expense.
- Insurmountable debt. Medical students often take on massive student loans to attend school, intending to pay them with their future physician's salary. Dismissal throws that prospect into question, but the debt must still be paid. In addition, if the student has the opportunity to re-enroll, the new tuition expenses may increase the debt load even more.
Medical students have the right to appeal any disciplinary decision handed down by the school before it becomes final. Fortunately, MSUCHM is fairly generous toward students facing allegations by allowing several opportunities to appeal during the disciplinary process. The school describes the process as follows:
"The decision of the hearing body may be appealed by either party to the next level hearing body. If the original hearing was by the department hearing body, the appeal shall be made to the college hearing body. If the original hearing was by the college hearing body, the appeal shall be made to the University Graduate-Professional Judiciary (UGPJ)."
Students have fourteen days to appeal any decision, and they may appeal on either substantive or procedural grounds. In disciplinary proceedings, this appeals process may very well rescue the student's future career.
Despite MSUCHM's attempts to keep disciplinary processes as fair as possible for the student, the school faces the same pressure as other medical schools to maintain a public reputation that is above reproach. That pressure can occasionally cause a student to face disproportionate punishments or be denied due process in some way. For medical students, such injustices can gravely harm their career prospects. Hiring an attorney advisor for guidance during disciplinary proceedings can go a long way toward making sure students' rights are protected and that they have every opportunity to clear their name and their record.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many medical students facing difficult academic, school discipline, and other educational and professional issues and concerns. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.