The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) traces its roots back to an initial enrollment of 22 medical students back in 1879. Today, the UAMS encompasses 6 colleges (including the College of Medicine) and serves as the only health sciences university in Arkansas, enrolling more than 3000 students. The school holds its medical students to high academic and professional standards as administered by the Honor Council.
A medical student's academic record effectively holds the key to the student's future. Academic shortfalls or disciplinary actions can be a stain on a student's otherwise pristine record, which can directly impact his/her future career opportunities. In disciplinary proceedings, an attorney-advisor can provide much-needed advice and support to ensure the student's right to due process is protected, possibly rescuing his/her career prospects.
Honor Code and Core Values
The UAMS embraces seven core values: Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Creativity, Excellence, Diversity & Health Equity, and Safety. These core values are embodied within the precepts of the school's Honor Code, in which each student pledges to uphold honest academic practices and abide by the school's Code of Professional Conduct. Alleged violations of these standards are investigated by the Honor Council, which may choose to hold hearings if the allegations are shown to be credible.
According to the UAMS Student Handbook, “If the Honor Council finds that a student has violated the Honor Code, his/her disciplinary action becomes an academic matter, and the case shall be referred to the appropriate faculty Promotions Committee for determination of disciplinary action using the Academic Procedures.” These disciplinary actions may include probation, suspension, or dismissal from the school.
Since the practice of medicine is one of public trust, medical students are naturally held to exceptionally high academic standards. Students at UAMS must meet strict grade requirements across extremely aggressive schedules, and even the finest students may sometimes have trouble keeping up. To ensure students have the opportunity to “right the ship” academically while meeting the qualifications for graduation, UAMS has extensive remedial policies in place whereby students may repeat courses or modules they failed. By some measures, the remedial standards are stricter than most. According to school policy, a medical student failing two modules in a school year must repeat the entire year.
Students may avoid the extra time and cost of remediation by successfully challenging grades. However, in situations where the alternative is dismissal for poor academic performance, remediation may actually save the student's career.
Consistent poor academic performance can result in dismissal from the school. So can allegations of academic or professional misconduct as described in the Honor Code. Being dismissed from medical school may not only seriously damage the student's prospects for a career in medicine, but also create a cascade of additional complications. For example:
- Inability to be admitted to another school. Medical schools have strict standards and limited acceptance rates, and a student who has been dismissed from another medical school is not considered a prime candidate.
- Loss of academic progress. If a student can get accepted to another school, any prior academic progress is erased by the dismissal. The student must effectively start medical school over from the beginning, at an additional cost.
- Excessive student debt. A medical education is extremely expensive, and it is not uncommon for students to owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans when they graduate. Medical students bank on being able to repay these loans on a physician's salary. Dismissal may eliminate this option—but the loans must still somehow be repaid.
Appealing Disciplinary Actions
If a student faces dismissal for academic or professional misconduct, he/she has the right to appeal the decision. UAMS allows students to appeal the determination to the President of the Honor Council on the following grounds:
- Claiming a substantial mistake of fact
- A fundamental misinterpretation of school policy
- A significant departure from accepted procedure
In most cases, the appeals process represents the last opportunity for medical students to rescue their careers. UAMS only affords a window of seven working days to file an appeal.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
Just as medical students face pressure to maintain a stellar academic and professional record, so medical schools face pressure to preserve their reputation for remaining above reproach in enforcing high standards of excellence. Unfortunately, this pressure sometimes results in disproportionate punishments being handed down to the student, often without due process, effectively jeopardizing the student's future in medicine. Hiring an experienced attorney-advisor in such cases can give the student a much-needed advantage in navigating the difficult disciplinary process, both to protect the student's right to due process and to help the student find better outcomes that hopefully don't involve dismissal.
Joseph Lento has extensive experience advising medical students facing disciplinary action. Contact the office of the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to learn more.