For some students, acceptance into medical school is the Holy Grail of the undergraduate experience. Students work for years, sometimes their entire academic careers, with this end in mind, and most students will do everything in their power to make their time in med school a success.
The Academic Guidelines for the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine opens with the following statement: “As a condition of enrollment in the Pritzker School of Medicine, every student must familiarize themselves with [these] guidelines and must comply with them.” These guidelines are more than 50 pages long and cover everything from the program of studies, to honors and awards, to a host of student policies.
The handbook speaks at length about requirements for academic excellence, which of course, all students strive to achieve. The reality for most, however, is that academic progression is not always linear. Many students face challenges with remediation and even dismissal from their selected programs for a host of reasons – either of which can have a serious impact on an individual's career. No one wants to see a career stalled or extinguished unjustly. That's why it's critical for students and their loved ones to arm themselves with knowledge about the school's policies.
While academic coursework is a fundamental element of any University experience, The Pritzker School of Medicine stresses that academic progression depends on additional factors as well. Other requirements for advancement include:
- Appropriate ethical and professional behavior at all times
- Satisfactory attendance records for classes, orientations, and symposia
- Timely completion of assignments and requirements
- Participation in course evaluations
- Respectful behavior towards patients, students, staff, faculty, and others
Failure on the part of any student to comply with these guidelines could result in corrective actions being taken, including dismissal from the program.
Students needing to remediate one or more courses are required to meet with the Associate Dean for Medical School Academics to outline their remediation plan. From there, the Committee on Academic Promotions has the sole authority to approve and enact the remediation plan. Once approved, the student may begin taking action; no action taken prior to the written approval of the remediation plan will earn credit.
Options and timing for remediation differ by year. Since the coursework varies more and more each year, the remediation plan has more room for possibilities. For instance, a request to reorder the sequence of third-year rotations or to advance to fourth-year electives pending a Year Three remediation can be submitted for approval to the Associate Dean for Medical School Education. Students are encouraged to complete remediation at the earliest possible time, though there is not a specific deadline outlined in the handbook for all instances.
A student may be placed on Monitored Academic Status at the discretion of the Committee on Academic Promotions. The Committee may choose to act if a student demonstrates:
- Unsatisfactory academic progress
- Borderline performance in one or more courses
- Failure to pass three or more exams in a given academic year
- Multiple Incomplete grades
- Persistent professionalism concerns
Once placed on Monitored Academic Status, the student is encouraged to reallocate their own mental resources to provide more attention to their coursework. In some cases, the Committee will suggest or require supplementary support such as counseling or personal evaluations. Should a student fail to improve his performance while on Monitored Academic Status, he runs the risk of being placed on academic probation.
A student may be placed on Academic Probation at the discretion of the same Committee. A student may find himself on Academic Probation if he:
- Is at risk of failing the academic program
- Has failed one or more courses or clerkships
- Has failed to remediate concerns under Monitored Academic Status
- Has received multiple Professionalism Concern Reports
- Has engaged in unprofessional behavior
Placement on Academic Probation does not require first being placed on Monitored Academic Status. Further, the Committee may rule for dismissal of a student having never been on Monitored Academic Status or Academic Probation should the Committee's concerns seem to warrant such action.
To be removed from Monitored Academic Status or Academic Probation, a student must demonstrate successive quarters of satisfactory performance. The Committee once again has the sole discretion to alter the length of the observation period and require subsequent performance reviews.
The Pritzker School of Medicine handbook offers definitions of professional responsibilities, relationships, and ethics. It breaks down specific commitments each student must make to ensure a level of professionalism in the classroom and beyond; while there is an extensive list in each category, the overarching theme is that students must treat everyone they encounter with respect. They are also asked to engage in lifelong learning and open themselves up to feedback in the interest of continuous improvement.
Should a concern arise regarding a student's professionalism, faculty or staff may approach the Faculty Dean, Course or Clerkship Director – from here, a number of paths may be taken: the Dean or director may address the student directly, or the concern may be escalated until a Professional Concern Reporting Form (PCR Form) is filed. Depending on the severity of the issue – as determined by school administration – the school may choose to simply document the incident, or it may choose to continue escalating to academic committees in search of dismissal for the student.
It is important to note that the Pritzker School of Medicine handbook leaves plenty of room for interpretation on A) what it means to behave unprofessionally, and B) what consequences are to be incurred.
Students that feel they have been treated unfairly during their time at the Pritzker School of Medicine may take action in the form of a grievance. The handbook outlines two potential pathways for grievance filing:
- Departmental Grievances: applicable for grades, evaluations, and departmental remediation requirements. The Academic Guidelines outline the escalation process beginning with the director of the course in question. Should the student and director be unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion, the student may then take their grievance up the chain. Following the appropriate submission guidelines, the student may continue to escalate their grievance until a resolution is reached or until the Committee on Academic Promotions is reached.
- Committee on Academic Promotions Grievance: applicable to appeal a decision handed down by the Committee on Academic Promotions. A student appealing the ruling of the Committee on Academic Promotions should submit their grievance in writing to the Dean for Medical Education; specifics of the written grievance are outlined in the handbook. Once the submission is received, the Dean then assembles an Academic Appeal Committee to review and rule on the grievance. The student has the right to access all information under review by the Committee.
Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento
While this overview is intended to discuss the common challenges students face in medical school, it is in no way exhaustive. Nor should a student rely solely on the University's academic guidelines to inform his own actions; it's here that assembling the right support team becomes critical. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience supporting medical school students across the United States through the trials of academic hardship. Completing your education and embarking on your career should not suffer any unnecessary delays. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 to schedule a consultation.