Since its initial founding in 1965, the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) has emerged as one of the top 50 medical schools in the nation. A leading hub for medical research, the school is home to one of the largest Alzheimer's centers in the world, as well as a diabetes enter and a center for cancer research. MCOM is highly selective in its admissions process, accepting only about 4 percent of applicants each year.
At any medical school, but especially at MCOM, the stakes are high for any student seeking a career in medicine. The curriculum is intense, the academic standards are high, and a pristine school record is essential for potential career advancement. For this reason, when a medical student faces dismissal or disciplinary action on allegations of academic or professional misconduct, it can have profound repercussions on that student's career prospects. An attorney advisor can provide needed guidance and support to ensure that medical students in this situation are afforded every opportunity to clear their names and save their careers.
Values, Student Conduct and Code of Honor
MCOM underscores its expectations for student behavior and performance with its stated values, which are:
- High standards
- Respect for individuals
- Advancing knowledge
- Personal development and leadership
- Commitment to health
Medical students are also expected to abide by the school's Code of Honor based on the four ideals of Self-Discipline, Judgment, Conscience, and Personal Responsibility.
Alleged violations of academic integrity are handled within the medical school by the Academic Performance Review Committee (APRC). Violations of the Code of Student Conduct are reviewed by the Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development (SCED). They may be subject to hearings and review by the University Conduct Board. Disciplinary actions include sanctions that range from repeating a course and academic probation to suspension and expulsion.
Medical school is very demanding, and the academic standards are exacting. Falling behind in course work or grades, even by a minor amount, can eventually derail an academic career, and even the most dedicated students sometimes struggle to keep up. For this reason, MCOM has integrated a system of remediation into their structure by which students may “right the ship” academically in case of failing grades or missed work. In some instances of significant shortfalls, the APRC may even place medical students on a leave of absence before repeating an entire year of course work.
Remediation costs the medical student additional time and money, and the school does offer a process for grade appeals that may avoid remediation if successful. However, considering that academic dismissal is a very real possibility for poor academic performance, remediation is sometimes the best solution to keep a student's career in medicine on track.
Dismissal and Expulsion
MCOM recognizes two forms of separation from the university. Dismissal from the medical school typically occurs for reasons of academic shortfalls or misconduct; expulsion usually occurs due to serious violations of the University Code of Conduct. In cases of academic dismissal, the student has the option to reapply for admission after one year. With expulsion, the separation is permanent, and the student may not reapply.
In either case, dismissal or expulsion can be potentially disastrous for a medical student's career, causing a cascade of difficulties. These may include:
- Challenges with re-enrollment. Even the student was dismissed rather than expelled, there is no guarantee of re-enrollment at MCOM, and other medical schools aren't likely to prioritize an applicant who was previously dismissed.
- Loss of progress. Dismissal includes the erasure of all progress made toward a medical degree. If the student does get re-admitted, he/she will have to start over from the beginning.
- Student debt challenges. Many medical students take colossal student loans to fund their education gambling on the notion that they will repay those loans with a physician's salary. Dismissal or expulsion can jeopardize that career trajectory, but the student will still have to repay the loan. If the student re-enrolls, the amount of debt could even double.
Students have the right to appeal any disciplinary ruling before it becomes final. The university has the typical appeal mechanisms in place for students facing expulsion for misconduct, but for academic dismissals, MCOM allows students to file a Petition for Reconsideration with the APRC to review disciplinary actions. A student has only five business days to file such an appeal before the ruling becomes final. In many cases, this appeals process is the last line of defense to save the student's career.
Attorney Advisor for Medical Students
Medical schools not only face intense pressure to be competitive academically, but they also face pressure to meet high professional/ethical standards and keep their reputations beyond reproach. Unfortunately, this pressure sometimes translates into the mishandling of student disciplinary proceedings, and a student may be unjustly penalized or dismissed due to denial of due process. For this reason, it's essential to engage a skilled attorney in an advisory role in any situation where a medical student faces possible discipline. The involvement of the attorney advisor may be a deciding factor in restoring the student's academic status and keeping their career from being derailed.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have many years of proven experience providing skilled counsel in matters involving academic and professionalism issues and student disciplinary concerns. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.