First established in 1907, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) is the only public medical school in Wisconsin and one of only two medical schools in the state. UWSMPH ranks as one of the nation's best medical schools for primary care and one of the top thirty schools for medical research.
Understandably, the stakes are high for medical students at UWSMPH, who must meet stringent academic requirements and follow strict professional behavior standards to further their careers. When a student's academic record becomes tarnished due to student disciplinary proceedings, it can dramatically impact the student's career prospects and opportunities. Hiring an experienced attorney-advisor can go a long way to helping a medical student navigate through allegations of academic or professional misconduct. In many cases, it can even save the student's career.
Professional Behavior Code and Student Code of Medical Ethics
In addition to being responsible for adhering to student conduct codes for the University of Wisconsin, UWSMPH students are also expected to abide by the medical school's Professional Behavior Code. This code requires students to act with academic honesty and integrity and behave professionally toward faculty, patients, and each other. Students are also expected to abide by the Student Code of Medical Ethics, written by students and approved by faculty, which reads:
“As University of Wisconsin medical students, we are committed to sustain the interests and welfare of patients and to be responsive to the health needs of society. We are committed to the highest standards of excellence in the practice of medicine and in the generation and dissemination of knowledge. We will neither lie, steal, nor cheat in an effort to misrepresent our academic standing or that of another colleague.”
The Student Promotion and Academic Review Committee (SPARC) monitors medical students' academic progress, and reviews and investigates allegations of academic misconduct and violations of the Professional Behavior Code. Students who have committed academic or professional misconduct may be subject to a series of sanctions, including additional monitoring, formal reprimands, suspension, or dismissal from the school.
Students at UWSMPH who fail to keep pace with their studies or maintain a minimum GPA can face possible dismissal from the school. That being said, the school's aggressive class schedules and the level of difficulty of courses is such that even the most dedicated medical students sometimes struggle to keep up. To help students “right the ship” academically, the SPARC may help struggling students by allowing repeats of failed exams and courses or prescribing an Individualized Academic Plan (IAP) as a form of remediation.
Remediation can cost the student additional time and money, and in some cases, mandated remediation can be averted through successful grade appeals. But in situations where the alternative is dismissal, remediation can be a lifeline to keep the student's future career on track.
A student who consistently fails to perform academically or who is found to have violated the school's standards of conduct may be dismissed from the school. UWSMPH defines “dismissal” as “the immediate termination of student status.” In some cases, dismissed students may be allowed to reapply to the program. If a student reapplies within 4 years, the application will go through the SPARC for reconsideration as a student. After 4 years, the student may reapply through standard application channels.
Being dismissed from medical school can be devastating to a student's career prospects. Not only is there the humiliation and failed reputation to consider, but dismissal can cause a cascade effect of problems for the student, including:
- Challenges in re-enrolling. Most medical schools have stringent admissions standards, and a student previously dismissed isn't generally considered a high-priority candidate. Even students who attempt to re-enroll at UWSMPH have no guarantees of readmission.
- Loss of academic progress. One should assume that dismissal erases all academic progress made so far—meaning the student will have to retake all courses from the beginning.
- Student debt problems. Medical school is expensive, and it's not unusual for students to take out $100,000 or more in student loans to cover the costs, expecting to repay the loans with a physician's salary. Dismissal may eradicate that possibility, but the loans will still have to be repaid.
Students have the right to appeal any disciplinary action before it becomes final. UWSMPH refers to the appeals process as a “request for reconsideration.” Students have 30 days (a generous window compared to most medical schools) to file a request for reconsideration to the Dean of Students. The request must include the reasons for requesting the reconsideration and a summary of any new information to be presented. If the request is honored, the student will be allowed to appear before the SPARC to present their case. If the student has been dismissed, that dismissal remains in effect until the appeals process is completed. The appeal is the student's final opportunity to rescue their medical career.
Attorney-Advisor for Medical Students
The medical profession is a public trust, and to that end, medical schools face intense public pressure to maintain high standards and a flawless reputation. Unfortunately, sometimes that pressure results in the school taking inordinately aggressive action against a student accused of misconduct, jeopardizing the student's career prospects as a result. Hiring an attorney-advisor can give the student an advantage during disciplinary investigations and proceedings. The advisor can ensure the student takes the proper steps to protect their rights and preserve due process—significantly improving the odds of a positive outcome.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience in successfully helping medical students facing academic or professional discipline and any school-related concern. Take the proper steps to protect your rights now—call (888) 535-3686 to discuss your options.