Tracing its roots back to 1954, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) is the oldest medical school in New Jersey. Located in Newark, the school has an enrollment of 680 students and maintains high admissions standards, accepting only 7 percent of all applicants.
Given the high level of public trust inherent to the field of medicine, a pristine academic record is key to a medical student's future career. When disciplinary proceedings or sanctions jeopardize that record, it also potentially threatens the student's future in medicine. For that reason, it can be extremely beneficial to hire an attorney advisor to provide much-needed guidance through the disciplinary process.
Professional Code of Conduct
Medical students at NJMS are required to abide by a strict Professional Code of Conduct, which includes a strong commitment "to hold themselves to high standards of academic integrity" and "to adhere to all generally recognized standards of professional and ethical conduct." Students' academic performance is monitored regularly by the Committee on Student Affairs to make sure they are keeping pace with scholastic requirements. The standards of academic honesty and professional/ethical conduct are enforced by the Committee on Academic Integrity (CAI), which also reviews and investigates allegations of misconduct.
For students accused of Code of Conduct violations, the CAI may hold hearings to determine if the allegations are verifiable. The committee makes a ruling on possible sanctions and refers the matter to the Dean for a final decision. Penalties may include a written/oral reprimand, academic probation, suspension, and even expulsion from the school.
The sheer amount of course work in medical school, combined with exacting academic standards, may prove challenging even for the most dedicated medical students. It's not uncommon for otherwise stellar students to struggle to keep pace or fail courses. To provide added assistance and help these students save their grades, NJMS offers such resources as tutoring, counseling, course reviews, and remediation. While remediation costs additional time and money, sometimes it can be averted by successfully filing an appeal for grade reviews. However, in cases where the only other alternative is dismissal for academic shortfalls, remediation may be the one option to save the student's career.
Dismissal and Expulsion
At NJMS, dismissal refers to an academic removal due to poor academic performance, while the term expulsion is used in cases of severe misconduct. However, both terms have the same result: a permanent separation from the school, accompanied by a negative mark on the student's academic record.
Dismissal/expulsion from medical school can have serious implications for the student's future, not to mention a slew of lingering problems and complications. These may include:
- Challenges with re-enrollment. If a student is dismissed from medical school, it's exceedingly difficult to re-enroll elsewhere, if not impossible. Medical schools don't place a high priority on candidates who have already been dismissed from another school.
- Lost academic progress. In the event a student does get admitted to another school, he/she will effectively re-start the course work from the beginning, at additional time and expense.
- Overwhelming student debt. It's quite common for medical students to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt because they anticipate paying it back on a physician's salary. Dismissal throws that income into question, but the debt must still be paid. If the student can re-start his/her studies, it may only pile the debt load higher.
For these reasons, it makes sense for students facing disciplinary action to take every step necessary and possible to avoid dismissal or expulsion from medical school.
When the Dean hands down a disciplinary decision, the medical student has the right to appeal the decision in writing to the Chancellor before it becomes final. In situations where the student is facing expulsion, the appeals process may very well be the last opportunity to rescue their career. Rutgers New Jersey School of Medicine only allows five working days for appeals to be filed, so the student should be prepared to take this step as soon after the ruling as possible.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
Medical schools face a unique set of pressures when it comes to student conduct and academic advancement—which is one reason why so many are exceptionally selective in their admissions. The school must ensure the students are meeting the requirements incumbent to the medical profession while maintaining a flawless and impeccable reputation. This is one reason why medical schools take allegations of misconduct so seriously. The unfortunate result of this pressure is that sometimes students bear the brunt of disproportionate discipline, which may unfairly jeopardize their future in medicine. An attorney-advisor in these cases can serve as a guide to make sure medical students make full use of their rights while ensuring due process. In many cases, this added assistance can save a career in jeopardy.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience helping medical students who are facing academic, discipline, and other educational and professional concerns. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to learn more.