Tracing its origins back to 1864, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine is the oldest medical school in the state and the oldest in the western United States. Today, the school is affiliated with the UCSF Medical Center, ranked as the 2nd best hospital in California and 7th best in the U.S.
Given its high ratings, UCSF School of Medicine is understandably selective, accepting only about 2 percent of its applicants. A stellar academic record here can open up many career opportunities; conversely, being disciplined for academic or professional misconduct can have grave repercussions on a medical student's future. An experienced attorney-advisor's involvement can go a long way toward protecting a student's academic and professional record and, by extension, their career.
Student Statement of Principles
In addition to students' responsibilities to honor university policies on student conduct, enrollees at UCSF School of Medicine are expected to adhere to the school's Student Statement of Principles, which detail the academic and professional standards by which all students must abide. The Student Statement of Principles focuses on five pillars:
- Honesty (both academically and in interactions with faculty and patients)
- Respect for others
- Expectations of faculty, residents, and fellows
Academic performance and professional behavior are monitored by the Committee on Academic Progress, while the Student Conduct Office investigates general university misconduct issues. Academic and professional violations are taken seriously by the School of Medicine, and the school lays out specific procedures by which such violations are addressed. Suppose the hearing body concludes a student committed violations of university policy or academic/professional standards. In that case, it may recommend several different sanctions, the most severe of which is dismissal from the school.
Medical school is academically challenging by any measure. Even the most dedicated or gifted students may sometimes struggle to maintain the pace or keep grades up, given the rigorous class schedules and high academic performance standards. For this reason, the Committee on Academic Progress may require struggling students to enter a program of remediation in an attempt to right the ship. If a student disagrees with the required remediation, he/she may be able to reverse it through a successful grade appeal. However, although remediation costs extra time and money for the student, it may, at times, be the best alternative to being dismissed for poor academic performance.
Students who consistently perform poorly, or who are found to have committed significant acts of academic or professional misconduct, may find themselves dismissed from medical school. UCSF School of Medicine refers to this as "Permanent separation of the student from the School of Medicine." Depending on the nature of the issue or offense, permanent separation falls in to one of three categories:
- Professional Disqualification (for egregious violations of the University of California Policy on Student Conduct or Discipline, generally non-academic);
- Discontinuance (basically for procedural failures, i.e., failing to "complete administrative requirements for registration, enrollment, matriculation, or course completion"; and
- Dismissal (for academic or professional failures).
Under these categories, discontinuance gives the student the opportunity to reapply for admission; disqualification and dismissal do not. Any of these three forms of permanent separation, however, will go on the student's permanent academic record.
Dismissal of any kind can have drastic repercussions on a medical student's future—not only jeopardizing career prospects but also causing a slew of additional complications. These may include:
- Difficulties re-enrolling. With a prior dismissal on one's record, it may be difficult to gain admission to another medical school.
- Loss of progress. Assuming re-enrolling is possible elsewhere, the student will most likely have to repeat all courses from the beginning.
- Student debt challenges. Student loans from medical school frequently top $100,000, which medical students naturally expect to repay from a physician's salary. Dismissal puts the physician's salary into question, but the debt must be repaid regardless.
Before any decision to dismiss becomes final, the student has the right to appeal the decision. According to UCSF School of Medicine policy, students may only appeal on the grounds of 1) factual errors that might have resulted in a different decision; or 2) failure of the committee to follow proper procedure. Students only have a 10-day window to file an appeal before dismissal becomes final, and in many cases, this appeals process is the student's final chance to rescue their career in medicine.
Hiring an Attorney-Advisor
Like other schools, UCSF School of Medicine has an express written discipline process designed to give students due process, However, that is not a guarantee that the school will successfully abide by its own policies. Medical schools are under intense pressure to pursue misconduct allegations aggressively. Often, that pressure can result in unfair punishments for medical students, jeopardizing their career prospects in the process. Having an attorney-advisor to assist the student through the investigation and disciplinary hearings can give the student a better advantage—an opportunity to present a more informed defense while keeping the school accountable to its own policies and procedures. In many cases, this added support is enough to help medical students salvage their good name, and ultimately, their career.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm understand the ins and outs of student discipline cases, especially when it comes to medical students facing any school-related issue, including the possibility of dismissal for academic or professional misconduct allegations. Make sure your rights are protected. Call (888) 535-3686 to see how we can help.