Located in Memphis, the University of Tennessee College of Medicine traces its origins back to 1850, making it the oldest public medical school in the state. Today, the UT College of Medicine is part of the greater University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), hosting an enrollment of nearly 650 medical students and over 1000 residents.
The practice of medicine is a public trust, and as such, medical students rely heavily on a pristine academic record to open career opportunities for them. When that record becomes tarnished due to allegations of academic or professional misconduct, it can limit or even jeopardize job opportunities after graduation. For medical students facing possible discipline or dismissal, hiring an experienced attorney advisor can go a long way toward restoring the student's reputation, salvaging their record, and even saving their career.
Medical Student Honor Code and “Bearcat Bond”
The academic culture of the UT College of Medicine centers around adherence to the UTHSC Honor System, as described in its preamble:
“The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (“UTHSC”) expects and requires all students to exemplify personal integrity and responsibility in the classroom, laboratory, clinics, and other academic endeavors. UTHSC also expects and requires UTHSC students to interact with patients, colleagues, and other members of the university community in a professional and ethical manner. These expectations and requirements provide the foundation for the UTHSC Honor System.”
Upon enrollment, medical students are expected to sign a pledge promising to abide by the terms of the Honor Code, which places high emphasis on personal integrity, academic honesty, and professionalism. The Honor Code is administered by a student-staffed Honor Council, which answers in turn to the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs. Allegations of Honor Code violations are taken seriously, and an Honor Court comprised of Honor Council members also acts as a hearing board for disciplinary matters. For serious violations of the Honor Code, the Court may recommend sanctions that include probation, suspension, and even dismissal from the school. The final decision on disciplinary action rests with the Dean.
Medical school can be particularly taxing. The high academic requirements and sometimes grueling course work can cause even the most committed students to fall short of the minimum qualifications to advance. Without additional support, many students would fail. For this reason, UT College of Medicine offers remediation opportunities to provide students a way to right the ship academically. In such cases, the school will devise a personalized Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which the student must fulfill to be restored to full academic standing.
Remediation can be costly and time-consuming, sometimes requiring students to repeat months of course work or even re-take an entire year. Sometimes remediation can be averted through successful grade appeals. However, in situations where the only alternative would be dismissal, remediation can serve as a bridge to save the student's future career.
Significant academic shortfalls or violations of the Honor Code may result in dismissal from the school. Dismissal from medical school can completely derail a student's career prospects. Aside from the humiliation and damage to the student's reputation, dismissal can create a whole array of complications for the student, including the following:
- Difficulty re-enrolling. A medical student who has been dismissed may not be able to convince another school to accept them as a student.
- Loss of all academic progress. Assuming the student gets past the first hurdle of re-enrolling in medical school, the student will basically start over from the beginning. The dismissal will erase any previous progress.
- Insurmountable debt. Medical students often take on student debt in excess of $100,000 to go to medical school, expecting to be able to repay these loans with a physician's salary. When the career prospects are thrown into doubt due to a dismissal, the student may have difficulty making the payments.
Before any disciplinary penalty takes effect, the student has the right to file an appeal. This appeal must be submitted in writing to the Chancellor within 10 days of the ruling of the Dean. UT College of Medicine makes the distinction that the student may only challenge the penalty imposed by the Dean, not the determination made by the Honor Court. In other words, the appeal is to reverse only the punishment, not to change the determination. Even so, if the penalty is dismissal, the appeals process may represent the student's final opportunity to rescue their career.
Attorney Advisor for Medical Students
Medical schools face constant, unrelenting public pressure to maintain a pristine reputation, both in upholding high academic and ethical standards and in instilling a sense of professionalism in their students. Sometimes, however, this pressure can result in students facing inordinately severe penalties, often without due process, which can, in turn, put their career prospects at risk. The role of an attorney-advisor in disciplinary matters is to provide essential guidance to ensure the student takes full advantage of the remedies available, and the presence of the advisor also can help protect due process. In many cases, this can make the difference between graduation and dismissal.
The Lento Law Firm can provide seasoned advice to students facing academic issues, disciplinary actions and other school-related concerns. Don't let unfair proceedings derail your career—call (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.