The Saint Louis University School of Medicine (SLUSOM) is a private Jesuit institution first established in 1836. Today, with an enrollment of about 700 students, SLUSOM is a recognized pioneer in medical advances and a leader in research for emerging diseases, organ transplants, neuroscience and others.
For medical students, maintaining a pristine academic record is key to opening up career opportunities in the field of medicine. Disciplinary actions taken by the school for academic or professional misconduct can harm that academic record, cause profound financial loss, and greatly impact career prospects. When allegations arise or when poor academic performance threatens a medical student's scholastic future, hiring an attorney-advisor can help ensure the student's due process rights are protected—and in many cases, it can rescue the student's career.
Code of Professional Conduct
St. Louis University School of Medicine has a mission to pursue “excellence in education, research, clinical care, and community engagement.” It is from this pursuit of excellence that the school has developed a comprehensive Code of Professional Conduct, which all medical students agree to abide by upon enrolling. The Code emphasizes the development of seven professional attitudes:
- Respect for the sanctity of human life
- Commitment to competence
- Respect for the dignity of patients in the provision of medical care
- Devotion to social justice
- Personal humility and an awareness of medicine's inherent limitations
- Appreciation of the role of non-medical factors in well-being/illness
- Maturity and balanced personal/professional behavior
Within the medical student's pledge are the following words to this effect: “I shall at all times and in all places conduct myself with honor and integrity, and I shall respect the rights and dignity of all individuals.”
SLUSOM has also established a chain of authority for addressing academic issues as well as violations of the Code of Professional Conduct. The Committee on Student Progress and Program Planning (CSPPP) evaluates student academic performance, recommends solutions for failures and shortfalls, and recommends dismissal for consistently poor performance. The Student Professional Conduct Council (SPCC) investigates and reviews allegations of Code violations. Both committees submit their recommendations to the Dean of the School of Medicine, who has the final say on discipline and sanctions. Such sanctions may included lowered/failing grades, probation, permanent notations on the student's record, suspension and dismissal.
SLUSOM holds its students to exacting academic standards, including (at times) exceptionally robust course schedules. So demanding are these requirements that at times even the most committed students fall short in grades, coursework completion, or both. To help students regain their academic footing, the school provides ample opportunities for remediation as prescribed by the CSPPP. Remediation may also be recommended as part of a disciplinary action.
Remediation costs the student additional time and money to repeat the coursework. In certain cases, the student can have remediation rescinded by a successful grade appeal or by demonstrating the work was completed properly. However, in cases of poor academic performance or misconduct where the alternative is dismissal, remediation may actually be a career-saving remedy.
In cases of poor academic performance, or when the school determines a student violated the Code of Professional Conduct, the medical student may be subject to permanent dismissal from the school. In extreme situations, SLUSOM even reserves the right to withhold or revoke degrees even after the student graduates. Dismissal represents the worst-case scenario for a medical student because it throws their entire career trajectory into jeopardy while creating a compounding set of problems for the student. For example:
- The student's prospects for re-enrollment are questionable at best. Medical schools are very selective in whom they accept, and for most of them, a student already dismissed from another school won't be held in high regard.
- The student must start over academically. Even if the student manages to get back into medical school, all prior progress will have been erased by the dismissal, resulting in months or years of repeated work.
- The student may struggle under the weight of debt. Student debt loads surpassing $100,000 are common with medical students because it's assumed they will pay those loans with a physician's salary. Dismissal greatly reduces the chances of a medical career, but the debt remains. If the student does start over, any additional student loans may pile on top of the original debt, as well.
Before any ruling of dismissal becomes final, the student has the right to file an appeal with the Dean of the School of Medicine. At SLUSOM, this appeal must be filed in writing within five working days, at which point the appeal will be reviewed by the Appeals Council appointed by the Dean. For any appeal to succeed, the student must make a compelling argument as to why the dismissal should be reversed or modified.
As the appeals process represents the last opportunity to rescue the student's education and career prospects, it's exceedingly important to craft an outstanding appeal.
Attorney Advisor for Medical Students
Schools of Medicine in general have an important public trust to maintain. They must make every effort to uphold the highest standards of professional and academic excellence in order to remain irreproachable. Unfortunately, some students find themselves as the victims of this pressure by being disproportionately punished or denied proper due process. An experienced attorney-advisor can help guide you through the sometimes-confusing process of school disciplinary proceedings to ensure you have every opportunity to save your medical career.
Joseph Lento can advise medical school students who are facing concerns at SLUSOM, including professional, academic, or disciplinary action. Contact the office of the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to learn more.