The University of Colorado School of Medicine traces its roots back to 1883, where it was founded in Boulder, CO with two teachers and two students before eventually moving to Denver in 1924. Today, the medical school is located on the sprawling Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, and is currently ranked 9th in the nation for primary care.
UC School of Medicine holds its students to exceptional standards of academic and professional excellence and takes issues of underperformance and misconduct seriously. Issues regarding academic/professional shortcomings or misconduct are governed by the medical school's Honor Council and the Student Promotions Committee.
Medical students rely on a pristine academic record to open the door for career opportunities, but disciplinary actions can endanger that record. For this reason, students should consider hiring an attorney-advisor during any disciplinary process to ensure their rights to due process are protected and hopefully guide them toward an outcome that minimizes damage to their record.
Honor Code and Professionalism
UC School of Medicine prides itself on being the first medical school in the U.S. to have developed a student Honor Code. This document encompasses virtually all of the medical school's policies and expectations for students regarding academic and professional integrity, including outlining policies and procedures for discipline of violations.
Upon enrolling in the school, medical students must sign and agree to the Honor Oath, which includes the following:
“Mindful of my obligations to my patients and colleagues, I pledge to conduct myself honorably in spirit and in action. I will not gain unfair advantage over my peers, teachers or any other member of the community, nor will I act in a manner that compromises patient care. I pledge to adhere to the principles and procedures detailed by the Honor Code of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.”
Allegations of Honor Code violations are taken up by the Honor Council or the Medical Student Professional Committee, depending on the nature of the claims. Hearings may be held to determine the validity of the claims. If the Council or Committee finds the student in violation of the Honor Code, it will make recommendations as to penalties and refer them to the Promotions Committee for approval. These penalties may range from a warning or probation to remediation, suspension, or dismissal. The Dean of the School of Medicine makes the final decision on discipline upon recommendation from the Promotions Committee.
Medical students must live up to very high academic standards to maintain the public trust associated with their chosen profession. Course schedules can be grueling and demanding, and even the most academically gifted students may have trouble keeping up from time to time. To that end, the medical school has a remediation program in place to help students get back on track academically if their grades drop beyond a certain level. The UC School of Medicine also utilizes remediation extensively as a remedy for academic or professional misconduct—typically as an alternative to dismissal.
Remediation can be time-consuming and costly, and in cases where the student feels remediation is unnecessary, he/she may reverse the remediation ruling by filing a successful grade dispute. However, in situations where the student faces possible dismissal, remediation may actually save the student's academic record and future career.
If a student continues to perform poorly academically, or in cases of severe professional or academic misconduct, he/she may face permanent dismissal from UC School of Medicine. This action could be fatal to a student's burgeoning medical career, accompanied by a chain reaction of complications. For example:
- The student will have trouble re-enrolling somewhere else. A medical student who has been previously dismissed generally won't qualify as a prime candidate at another medical school—especially given that these schools' admissions standards are so stringent to begin with.
- The student will lose all academic progress. Assuming the student can get back into medical school, dismissal will have erased all prior academic credit—meaning he/she must start over from the beginning.
- The student may face insurmountable student debt. Medical students often have no problem borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans for their education on the assumption they can cover the debt with a physician's salary. Dismissal all but eliminates the option of a physician's salary—without excusing the debt.
When the school hands down a disciplinary ruling, especially of dismissal, the student has the right to appeal the decision before it becomes final. In many cases, this appeal may be the last opportunity to rescue the student's academic and future medical career.
At UC School of Medicine, students may appeal in writing to the Associate Dean of Student Life within 5 days of receiving the ruling. The school will only consider the appeal if it successfully demonstrates one or more of the following:
- New information that was not available during the proceedings.
- Evidence of discrimination during the proceedings.
- A material procedural error.
- Evidence that the committee operated in an “arbitrary or capricious manner.”
Attorney Advisor for Disciplinary Proceedings
Just as medical students have a lot riding on their academic and professional record, so medical schools have a lot riding on their ability to operate irreproachably on high levels of excellence. This pressure may sometimes result in unfair treatment of a student during disciplinary hearings, including lack of due process or disproportionate penalties. The presence of an attorney advisor, which is specifically permitted in these hearings, can help protect the student's interests and right to due process while working to come up with acceptable alternatives to dismissal.
Joseph Lento is highly experienced in advising medical school students who are facing disciplinary action. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to learn more.