Celebrating its Sesquicentennial in 2020, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine (CCOM) traces its beginnings back to 1870, when it had the distinction of being the first medical school in the country to enroll women. Today, CCOM ranks consistently among the top medical schools in the nation and is in high demand among medical students seeking a quality education.
While the field of medicine affords many promising careers, it also has a high bar of entry. Medical students face grueling pressure to keep up their grades amid strenuous schedules while upholding standards of integrity and excellence. While a pristine academic record can open many career doors, derogatory notations and disciplinary actions can have the opposite effect. When a medical student faces allegations of academic or professional misconduct, or other issues in dispute with the medical school, having an attorney advisor involved can make a significant impact on the outcome.
Professional/Ethical Behavior Policies and Honor Code
Carver College of Medicine holds its students to the highest standards of ethical academic behavior. Students are expected to abide by the school's Honor Code, which “demands that community members tell the truth, live honestly, advance on individual merit, and demonstrate respect for others in the academic, clinical and research communities.” In keeping with this code, the school also lays out specific policies regarding Professional and Ethical Behavior, which describes both appropriate and inappropriate actions in medical student conduct, both academically and professionally among colleagues and patients.
Academic progress and the Honor Code are reviewed and enforced by two bodies: The Student Promotions Committee (consisting of six faculty members and two students) and the Honor Council (consisting of 11 elected students and two faculty members). The Student Promotions Committee primarily deals with academic shortfalls, while both bodies can investigate allegations of misconduct—and the accused student may select which body will investigate the claims. The school takes its Honor Code very seriously, and students found in violation may be subject to a variety of sanctions, which may range from reprimands all the way to dismissal.
Like most medical schools, the curriculum at CCOM is demanding. Between the heavy course loads and high academic minimum standards, even the most dedicated students sometimes struggle to meet the requirements. To enable students to “right the ship” academically, the school has remediation protocols in place that include retaking of exams, re-taking courses, summer courses, or other remedies prescribed by the Student Promotions Committee.
Remediation can be a mixed bag for a medical student. On one hand, if the alternative is dismissal from medical school, remediation can be a lifeline to protect the student's future career. On the other, remediation is costly and time-consuming, and it can result in a less-than-stellar academic record with the possibility of reducing opportunities for residency and employment. In many cases, remediation can be averted by a successful grade appeal. A student may wish to consult with an attorney advisor before moving ahead with a remediation plan to be sure it is actually in the student's best interests.
Dismissal and Expulsion
Serious or consistent academic performance, including some forms of academic misconduct, may result in dismissal from medical school. Serious violations of school policy may result in expulsion. CCOM effectively views dismissal and expulsion as two different actions. A student who has been dismissed from medical school has the opportunity to apply for re-admission, while the University of Iowa defines expulsion as a “permanent separation” from the University.
Either dismissal or expulsion can wreak utter havoc on a medical student's future, seriously hindering his/her career prospects. On top of the immediate humiliation, the student may deal with a compounding set of problems, including:
- Difficulty re-enrolling. Even with an open door to re-apply in cases of dismissal, the student will be competing for openings with many other medical students who do not have a prior dismissal on their academic record.
- Lost progress. It's a safe assumption that if a dismissed medical student manages to re-enroll, that student will start from the beginning. All academic progress will have been lost.
- Damage to academic record. Again, even if the student re-enrolls and eventually emerges with a medical degree, the negative marks on the student's record may weigh badly on employment prospects.
- High student debt. If the student took out student loans to pay for medical school, those debts must be repaid—with or without the benefit of a physician's salary.
Before any disciplinary action is finalized, the student has the right to file an appeal with the Office of Student Affairs and Curriculum Associate Dean, who will then refer the matter to an Appeals Committee for an additional hearing. The student may supply a written statement and/or letters of support, but he/she must appear at the hearing to make an appeal in person and to answer questions before the Appeals Committee makes a final decision. CCOM only affords a five-day window for the student to file a request for an appeal, so it's important to act quickly. A compelling appeal may be the student's last opportunity to save his/her career.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
While medical schools typically face constant pressure to maintain an irreproachable reputation and high standards of excellence, that pressure often results in unfortunate actions taken against the medical students seeking an education. The pressure to resolve matters quickly or provide “swift justice” may result in a student being denied due process or being unfairly disciplined—his/her academic record tarnished as a result. Other issues and disputes can likewise derail a student's academic prospects. Hiring a skilled attorney advisor can often bring the scales back into balance in these situations, ensuring the school follows its own due process policies and empowering the student to provide an effective defense.
Joseph D. Lento has many years of successful experience helping medical students navigate through academic/professional concerns including misconduct allegations, remediation questions, and other medical school issues. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to see how we can help you.