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Understanding Academic and Disciplinary Dismissals from Medical Education Institutions

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Firm News |

Understanding Academic and Disciplinary Dismissals from Medical Education Institutions

No student wants to face dismissal. But unfortunately, some students do. Knowing what actions (or lack of action) often leads to dismissal helps to avoid this devastating decision.

Keep reading to learn about definitions related to academic and disciplinary dismissal cases and common examples.

And if you’re facing removal from a health-related education program, call us. You should not take on this challenge alone and without the most current information.

Academic Dismissal Defined and Common Reasons

 Academic dismissal is a consequential event, usually following a probation or suspension, that means a student can no longer take courses at that university or educational institute. In other words, it’s the final step taken when a student didn’t meet the academic requirements of the school.

Common reasons for academic dismissal are consistently low grades, not meeting GPA requirements, or insufficient progress towards degree completion. For students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate medical education programs, more specific reasons include failing basic science courses, failing the U.S. Medical Licensing (USMLE) step exams, and not meeting standards in clerkships (or internships and residencies for graduate students).

It’s important to note here that academic dismissal does NOT mean your pursuit of a degree is over. You are allowed to seek a college education. However, you are not allowed to enroll at the institute where you were dismissed for a certain period of time. (In some instances, though, dismissal is a permanent removal.)

Disciplinary Dismissal from Medical Education Programs and Common Reasons

 As with an academic dismissal, a disciplinary dismissal is usually a resulting event; it often follows a probation or sanction. But a disciplinary dismissal is a result of a student’s conduct or behavior – not a result of poor academic performance. Common reasons for disciplinary dismissal include academic dishonesty and poor ratings for professionalism.

Disciplinary dismissal is the most common type of student removal in medical education programs. How you conduct yourself as a student and professional matters greatly to medical schools.

Examples of Academic and Disciplinary Dismissals

 In this section, we look at dismissals in more detail. We give examples of reasons for both academic and disciplinary removals.

Example 1: Professionalism Violations

Of all the specific reasons for dismissal, a concern with professionalism is the most common type of dismissal in health-related programs. Violations or concerns include missing or being late for clinical rotations, saying or doing inappropriate things with fellow students or patients, or not engaging with patients in a kind, considerate, and knowledgeable manner.

Note here that courts are not in complete agreement as to whether a dismissal based on “professionalism” is an academic or a disciplinary dismissal. Most courts in recent years have deemed it a disciplinary violation.

Example 2: Breach of Academic Integrity Policies

Academic integrity is a must in any education program, but even more so in medical education. This category relates to actions like plagiarism, cheating on exams, falsifying data or signatures, conspiring with classmates or professors for academic advantage, or paying someone to write papers or take exams. Depending on the severity of the violation and a student’s disciplinary history, a disciplinary dismissal may be a consequence.

Example 3: Performance-Based Academic Dismissal

A performance-based academic dismissal typically occurs when a student’s overall academic performance falls below standards set by the institution. Consistent low grades or failure to meet minimum GPA requirements are usual considerations when deciding on a student’s academic dismissal.

While it may seem unfair or harsh, schools enforce performance-based dismissals to maintain academic standards and ensure that students are meeting the fundamental requirements. In medical schools, where human lives truly hang in the balance, high standards for performance are necessary.

Example 4: Failure to Meet Progression Requirements

All medical education programs have specific progression steps that you must meet to continue your studies. For example, passing the step exams in the USMLE and receiving high ratings in clerkships, internships, and residencies are required before moving to the next phase.

When a student cannot meet these requirements, schools may decide on an action plan (like retaking a course or exam, remediation work, probation, etc.), which likely ends with an academic dismissal if a student doesn’t show adequate progress.

Example 5: Extended Leave of Absence

In certain cases, students may be granted leaves of absence for personal or medical reasons. If a student doesn’t return, though, to their studies within the designated timeframe or doesn’t provide adequate documentation for the extended absence, the student may face academic dismissal. Schools implement this measure to maintain the continuity of learning and to ensure that students are actively engaged.

Due Process

Due process, simply defined, is the right a student has 1.) to be investigated thoroughly of the accusation and 2.) to expect the school to follow the rules it’s prescribed for this specific situation. An institute’s policies for dismissals should be defined in its handbook and on the website.

In most states, procedures for due process are required for medical programs to receive and maintain accreditation. However, there is some controversy in the court system concerning the type of dismissal and due process requirements. To explain, if a dismissal is deemed an academic removal, there is more leeway for education institutions to dismiss a student without even the minimal level of due process.

The same is not true, though, if a dismissal is determined to be a disciplinary action. At least a hearing for the accused to tell their side of the story is required. The U.S. Supreme Court has held firm that due process is a constitutional right of students when facing disciplinary action.

In short, if you’re facing dismissal – of any kind – and don’t feel like you received due process, contact a legal group like ours for advice. It’s best to talk with an experienced professional in this situation.

How to Protect Yourself

Being proactive is the best way to protect yourself against dismissal. Familiarize yourself with the school’s Student Code of Conduct. Carefully read the syllabus for each course. Study early for exams, which helps you feel more confident and less tempted to take shortcuts. Know the expectations for professionalism in your clinicals and rotations and ask questions if unclear about how to proceed in difficult situations.

Lastly, if you’ve received written notification about a possible dismissal, contact an education legal group like ours.

Education Litigation Group Knows about Academic and Disciplinary Dismissals

Our founder, Jason Bach, has worked with students for nearly 30 years and has gathered a team of dedicated professionals to help even more students, parents, and teachers. Complex issues like dismissals from medical school are our specialty.

Call us to start a conversation if you’re facing dismissal from a medical education institution.