Located in Lubbock, TX, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine (TTUHSC SOM) was founded in 1969 to address the need for more physicians in west Texas. In the 40 years since its opening, this School of Medicine has awarded more than 4000 medical degrees. TTUHSC is in high demand with stringent acceptance rates, accepting only about 180 students out of 3000 applicants each year.
The key to career opportunities as a physician begin in medical school—with a flawless academic record. Medical students at TTUHSC are under intense pressure to keep up with stringent academic demands while upholding the highest levels of ethical conduct. Disciplinary proceedings for academic or professional conduct can tarnish a student's record, deeply affecting his/her opportunities for a career in medicine. Hiring an attorney advisor to assist in such proceedings can make a huge difference in helping to rescue the student's reputation, and by extension, their medical career.
Honor Code and Code of Conduct
Every student enrolling at TTUHSC SOM is expected to agree to, and abide by, the school's Medical Student Honor Code and Code of Professional and Academic Conduct. Within these codes, the student agrees to practices of academic integrity, dignity toward patients and respect and professionalism towards colleagues, among other things.
The school takes academic progress and issues of misconduct seriously, and it has several boards and committees in place to administer these issues as overseen by the Office of Student Affairs. Medical students' academic progress is monitored and evaluated by the Student Promotions and Professional Conduct Committee (SPPCC), while alleged violations of the Student Code are reviewed and investigated by the Student Conduct Board. If a medical student is found to be in violation of the Honor Code or Code of Professional and Academic Conduct, the appropriate board may recommend any or several of a list of sanctions. These sanctions may be as mild as censure or loss of privileges, or they may be as severe as suspension, dismissal and/or revocation of degree.
Given the exacting academic standards and demanding course schedules at TTUHSC SOM, it's not unusual even for the most dedicated students to fall behind academically or fall short of acceptable grade levels. To address these issues, the school has implemented a system of remediation to help students get back on track academically.
Depending on the situation, remediation may range from taking a single remedial course to repeating an entire academic year. Of course, these remedies may delay the student's timeline for graduation, not to mention the additional costs of repeating courses. Remediation can sometimes be averted through the successful appealing of grades, for which the school has its own appeals process. However, in situations where the alternative is dismissal, a remediation track may very well save the student's career.
In cases of significant academic shortfalls or where the medical student faces discipline for academic or professional misconduct, the school may recommend dismissal of the student. At TTUHSC SOM, dismissal may be rendered with or without the option for readmission, depending on the circumstances. The school may also opt to revoke or withhold a degree in certain situations.
Dismissal represents the worst-case scenario for a medical student, even with the option of reenrolling. Dismissal may not only seriously jeopardize the student's medical career prospects, but it is accompanied by a cascading set of complications, which may include:
- Challenges in re-enrolling. If the dismissed student is not given the option for readmission at TTUHSC SOM, he/she may have difficulty enrolling anywhere else. (Dismissed or expelled students aren't generally high on the list of priority candidates.)
- Loss of academic progress. If the student is able to re-enroll, he/she will basically start over from the beginning, at added time and expense.
- Permanent stain on the student's record. According to TTUHSC policy, dismissal or revocation of degree becomes a permanent part of the student's academic record, which may affect career opportunities down the road even if they do complete a medical degree.
- Insurmountable debt. Many medical students incur huge amounts of student debt, banking on their future physician's salary to repay it. If the student is dismissed, at best, that debt will increase significantly if the student manages to re-enroll. At worst, they will have to repay the debt without the benefit of a physician's salary at all.
If a medical student faces dismissal, he/she has the right to file an appeal before the determination becomes final. According to school policy, the student must file this appeal in writing to the Dean of the School of Medicine explaining in detail the exact grounds for the appeal. The Dean will who either make a summary ruling or refer it to an Appeals Committee for review.
The appeals process represents the final opportunity for a student facing dismissal to rescue his/her medical career. TTUHSC SOM only allows a window of five business days for the filing of an appeal, so it's important to act quickly to prevent final dismissal.
It's a safe assumption that most medical school faculty, staff and administrators want their students to succeed and will do everything possible to remain fair and above board. At the same time, medical schools face constant public pressure to maintain an irreproachable reputation, and that pressure occasionally results in medical students facing disciplinary actions that are disproportionate to their offenses, or being denied due process altogether. Hiring an advisory counsel for disciplinary proceedings can greatly improve your chances for a more favorable outcome by helping you avail yourself of all available rights and protections.
Joseph Lento has extensive experience advising medical students who face disciplinary proceedings. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to learn more.