Tracing its roots back to 1891, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) houses the oldest medical school in Texas. A school with a history of “firsts,” UTMB was the first medical facility in Texas to establish a hospital for children and the first in the U.S. to set up a pediatrics department. Today, UTMB is a large academic and healthcare institution encompassing 70 buildings, four on-site hospitals, 2500 students, and 1000 faculty members. A hub for medical research, UTMB is home to the Galveston National Laboratory. It also houses one of only three Level I Trauma Centers in Southeast Texas.
A career in medicine requires a high level of commitment to academic, ethical, and professional excellence. Disciplinary actions that appear on a student's record can have far-reaching implications for future career opportunities. The involvement of an experienced attorney-advisor can help ensure fairness during disciplinary reviews while safeguarding the student's reputation and preserving their opportunity to move forward into a medical career.
Professionalism Charter and Honor Pledge
All students, faculty, and staff at UTMB are held to standards of the school's Professionalism Charter, a living document that details the school's expectations regarding professionalism. “Each member of the UTMB community has a responsibility to act with integrity, compassion, and respect toward one another and those we serve,” the charter says. “Honoring this responsibility and being accountable constitute the essence of professionalism.”
To this end, UTMB students agree to take the following student-created Honor Pledge:
“On my honor, as a member of the UTMB community, I pledge to act with integrity, compassion, and respect in all my academic and professional endeavors.”
Student Conduct Policy
UTMB's Student Conduct Policy laid out in its Institutional Handbook of Operating Procedures (IHOP). UTMB classifies violations in one of two categories: Academic Misconduct (e.g., cheating, plagiarism) and Non-Academic Misconduct (e.g., drug use, hazing, other forms of misconduct). Incidents of Academic Misconduct are investigated by the Student Affairs Officer; Non-Academic Misconduct is investigated by the Student Conduct and Discipline Officer. Investigations of either type of misconduct may result in a formal hearing and possible disciplinary actions.
Serious incidents of academic or professional misconduct may result in sanctions that may appear on the student's permanent records. These may include: disciplinary probation, restitution, suspension of privileges, withholding of grades, denial or revocation of degree/diploma, suspension, or permanent expulsion.
Medical schools generally maintain intensive schedules and high academic standards that can be so stringent that even the most dedicated students sometimes fall short academically—which in turn may make them subject to dismissal. In such cases, UMTB may prescribe a mediation program to help students to get back on track academically while demonstrating to the school that they can meet the qualifications necessary for a career in medicine. The Academic Progress Committee makes determinations on whether a student qualifies for remediation or should be dismissed. A student may be able to avoid remediation and/or academic dismissal by appealing to the Academic Review Committee.
Remediation is not a convenient option, and it can cost additional time and money—but in cases where the alternative is dismissal, it can essentially save the student's future career.
Consequences of Expulsion
Students at UTMB who don't meet the school's academic or professional standards, are who are accused of academic misconduct, may be subject to expulsion from the school. Expulsion from UTMB represents a "permanent separation from the institution," according to school policy, and because expulsion includes a permanent mark on the student's academic record, it can put a student's entire career trajectory in question.
Beyond the immediate humiliation, being dismissed from medical school can have far-reaching implications for the student, causing a cascade of problems. These may include:
- Challenges with enrolling elsewhere. Medical schools already have strict admissions guidelines. A student who has been expelled can't expect to be treated with priority.
- Setbacks in academic progress. If a student does manage to re-enroll in a different medical school, their progress at UTMB won't carry over to the next school—meaning they will need to repeat months' or years' worth of courses. (UTMB also reserves the right to revoke prior degrees in certain cases.)
- Crushing student debt. A student enrolling in medical school may take on huge amounts of student loans with the expectation of paying those loans back once they land a lucrative position. Expulsion may eliminate the prospect of becoming a physician—but it won't erase the debt.
If a student faces disciplinary action or expulsion for academic or professional misconduct, the appeals process may prove to be their salvation. For medical students, academic-related expulsions may be appealed to the Academic Review Committee, while appeals for disciplinary expulsion are reviewed by the Provost. UTMB allows seven days for appeals to be filed.
Attorney-Advisor for Disciplinary Proceedings
Medical schools, under constant pressure to maintain high standards of ethics and transparency, may, unfortunately, rush to judgment in some cases of misconduct, to the lasting detriment of the student. Harsh disciplinary actions can appear on the student's permanent record, and expulsion can cause even more damage. Any measure a medical student can take to protect their otherwise pristine record will also help protect their future career in medicine. For this reason, it's a smart move to hire an attorney-advisor for skilled counsel and representation during school disciplinary proceedings. An advisory counsel can help you see options for a positive outcome that you might otherwise not have seen, and the presence of counsel helps ensure the school affords you the due process you deserve.
Joseph Lento can help ensure your rights are protected in instances of alleged misconduct or academic shortfalls. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today for more information.