Student Defense - Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine

Founded in 2006 by the Florida Board of Governors, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University (HWCOM) combines research and innovation to reflect 21st Century medicine standards. HWCOM promotes socially responsible behavior as an essential characteristic of the future physicians, scientists, and health professionals it educates. As a result, the administration has a low tolerance threshold for academic and behavioral infractions.

Medical students undergo rigorous training to prepare for their roles as physicians and juggle multiple responsibilities outside of school. The pressure and stress to maintain high grades cause some to falter, resulting in poor academic or behavioral performance. However, students may also be victims of false or baseless allegations. Fortunately, HWCOM's administration allows attorney-advisors to participate in hearings if a misconduct charge arises.

Honor Code

HWCOM follows FIU's Student Conduct and Honor Code, which outlines ethical expectations. A significant portion of the code relates to misconduct violations, the investigation and hearing process, and sanctions. With equal emphasis on opportunities and responsibilities, HWCOM encourages students to maintain integrity standards that transcend the Honor Code to become part of their personality. The code promotes:

“The intellectual exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experience. It is the responsibility of the University to provide a safe and stimulating environment in which scholarship and personal growth may occur. The desired effect is that Students will take advantage of this environment to develop intellectually as well as to participate as responsible, contributing citizens of our community”.

The SCAI Director at HWCOM reviews reports of alleged misconduct and determines if there is a need for an investigation and hearing. The meeting involves the student, accuser, The Hearing Body, and a Hearing Officer. Students can bring an attorney-advisor and multiple witnesses. Medical students always enter the hearing with a “No Responsibility” status unless the panel decides they are guilty. Whether the infarction is behavioral or academic, medical students risk course and university sanctions, revoked privileges, and expulsion depending on the panel's decision.


HWCOM provides medical students with multiple opportunities to improve their academic performance through remediation assessments and course remediation. The Medical Student Evaluation and Promotion Committee (MSEPC) is responsible for evaluating student performance. If students fail courses in Periods 1 or 2, they receive a remediation assessment (exam) to demonstrate their competency. The remediation assessment is mandatory, and students who don't complete it without a valid excuse receive two failed remediations. Students cannot take further courses if they have failed remediations and unless authorized by the MSEPC.

Medical students must complete their remediation plans successfully to graduate. Failure to keep up results in additional time and money spent, but students face dismissal otherwise.


An expulsion is a last-resort option for HWCOM that results in the permanent dismissal of a medical student. The decision to expel a student comes after multiple attempts to address behavioral infractions or because their academic performance isn't improving. This decision has disastrous consequences on a medical student's progress and future career as a physician. Some of the effects of an expulsion include:

  • Notice of the incident on the student's transcript. A record of the incident on a medical student's transcript raises questions about their dedication to the medical field, a public trust profession. This record causes reputational damage and may strip students from scholarships and professional opportunities.
  • Decreased likelihood of acceptance to other schools. Medical schools may ask for the student's records at HWCOM and note the expulsion. Administrators are less likely to accept a medical student's application if they have chronic performance issues and ethical violations.
  • More time and effort to graduate. Medical students must look for another program, apply, pay fees, and in some cases, start anew. The unexpected delay in graduation leads to increased stress and double the pressure to perform well in an already challenging field.
  • More student loans. Students facing expulsion may not receive a refund for the funds spent at HWCOM. Registering in a new university may incur additional funds and increase student loans. Loans can take years to pay off, especially when they reach the hundreds of thousands.


Students can appeal sanctions after their hearing by contacting the Appellate Officer, the Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs. The student must complete the appeals form and provide a concrete basis for their request. The parties involved in reviewing the appeal either proceed with a review or reject it.

Adding supporting information to the appeal with more details or evidence improves a student's chances of receiving a file review and decreasing the severity of sanctions.

An attorney advisor's presence is an invaluable asset during every stage of the hearing and appeals process. Early involvement is critical. An advisor's help is more effective when medical students receive notice of a violation rather than when they need to appeal.

Hiring an Attorney-Advisor

HWCOM's comprehensive policy aims to decrease incidences of ethical misconduct and helps medical students improve and refine their standards. However, it can come at a high cost, especially when allegations of misconduct are false or when the school is unreasonable in responding to academic issues or concerns. Such an exacting and rigorous process causes undue stress that medical students do not need with their existing course load.

Whether it was an honest mistake or a completely false allegation, the evidence you provide during a hearing and your defense strategy makes all the difference in your case outcome. You have the right to defend yourself against claims that adversely impact your academic and professional future. Not only is your graduation at stake, but so is your dream of working in the medical field and gaining the respect of your peers and patients.

Advisor Joseph D. Lento helps you craft a strong defense strategy to fight for the best possible outcome in a misconduct or professionalism case or when facing academic concerns. You don't have to face the allegations or issue alone and risk losing years of hard work and effort for a momentary lapse in judgment or false accusation, or because HWCOM is unreasonable in its response.

If you face an academic misconduct charge or other issue at HWCOM, call the Lento Law Firm today for expert consultation at 888-535-3686.

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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 the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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