Located in Chicago, IL, the Feinberg School of Medicine traces its origins back to 1859, officially affiliating with Northwestern University by 1870. Today, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine hosts 657 MD students and 401 Ph.D. students, and it was recently ranked as number 18 among the top medical schools in the nation.
Studying medicine calls for intense discipline and an agreement to hold oneself to high academic and professional standards. A pristine academic record can open up many career opportunities in medicine. Conversely, disciplinary actions for academic and professional misconduct can result in permanent notations on a student's record, potentially impacting their career prospects. Having an attorney-advisor for school disciplinary proceedings can help ensure due process and help the student protect their good name for the future.
Student Code of Conduct
Medical students at Feinberg School of Medicine are expected to adhere to the school's Student Code of Conduct, which opens with these words:
“As members of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine community, we are entrusted with the care of human life. With this great privilege, we have an obligation to uphold the ideals and values of the medical profession.”
As a result, medical students must agree to a list of pledges upholding the pillars of honor and integrity, professional responsibility, and respect.
The Student Promotions Committee (SPC) monitors students' academic progress. Allegations of academic or professional misconduct are taken seriously. They are reported to the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education, who then refers the matter to the SPC to conduct a review and investigation. If a student is found to be responsible for such misconduct, the SPC may recommend disciplinary sanctions that may include reprimand, suspension, and even dismissal. These academic sanctions will go on the medical student's permanent record and cannot be expunged according to school policy.
Rigorous course schedules combined with high academic standards can be challenging for any medical student to measure up to. Even the most gifted and dedicated students sometimes fail to meet the minimum grade requirements. To help struggling students get back on course, the Feinberg School of Medicine provides several stages of remedial processes. For early signs of struggle, the Education Support Team will help develop a Support Plan for the student to shore up weak areas. If composite scores fall below minimum standards, the Office of Medical Education will prescribe a course of remediation.
Remediation may cost additional time and expense for the medical student, and a successful grade appeal can sometimes avert it. However, if the student faces possible dismissal for academic shortcomings, remediation may be a lifeline to rescue their career.
Medical students may be dismissed from Feinberg School of Medicine for “repeated failures, marginal academic work, egregious professional behavioral issues or a pattern of professional behavioral problems.” Before dismissal or other sanctions occur, the student is summoned to a hearing before the Student Performance Committee to present their defense before a determination is made.
Dismissal from medical school can have lasting negative consequences for the student in regard to a medical career. Not only is there the humiliation of dismissal to deal with, but the student now faces a potentially cascading array of problems, which may include:
- Challenges re-enrolling. Most medical schools have selective admissions standards, and a student previously dismissed is not usually considered as a priority candidate.
- Loss of academic progress. Dismissal effectively erases any previous work completed toward a medical degree. Assuming the student can re-enroll elsewhere, he/she will need to repeat all that work at additional time and expense.
- Possible barriers to career entry. At Feinberg School of Medicine, disciplinary actions go onto the student's permanent academic record, so any potential employer calling for those records will see those disciplinary marks.
- Overwhelming student debt. Medical students often take out large student loans to cover school tuition, banking on a physician's salary to pay them off. Dismissal may eliminate the possibility of a career in medicine, but it won't erase the debt.
Based on these consequences and complications, medical students and their parents should do everything in their power to avert dismissal, if possible.
Before any disciplinary action becomes final, the medical student has the right to file an appeal in writing to the Dean of the School of Medicine. The appeal must be submitted within 14 days of the determination of the SPC. The school will only entertain an appeal on the following grounds:
- Procedural errors that may have negatively affected the outcome; or
- An SPC decision that is “manifestly unreasonable” based on the evidence.
If the Dean allows the appeal to go forward, the matter will go before a Student Appeals Committee of three faculty members who will review the case, meet with the student and make recommendations to the Dean by a majority vote. In many cases—especially when dismissal is on the line—the appeals process represents the final opportunity to save the student's career.
Attorney-Advisor for Student Disciplinary Actions
Medical schools rightly feel obligated to maintain the public trust by upholding high academic and professional standards and an irreproachable reputation. Unfortunately, this pressure frequently results in aggressive actions taken against alleged misconduct, and medical students sometimes end up being denied due process and disproportionately punished. An experienced attorney-advisor will help the student gather evidence and prepare a solid defense while helping ensure due process. Quite often, this added assistance can help the student clear their name and save their career prospects.
Joseph D. Lento has helped to defend many medical students against unfair practices related to academic and other concerns in addition to disciplinary actions in medical schools across the country. Don't face school-related concerns or disciplinary hearings alone and unprepared—take steps now to protect your future. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to learn more.