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Thursday, Oct. 28th 2021

MEDICAL STUDENT PROFESSIONALISM APPEALS

            Medical students are certainly aware of the importance placed on professionalism in both the didactic and clinical settings.  Such professionalism violations can have a negative impact on a medical student’s chances of matching in the residency match process. For medical student professionalism appeals, you should consider hiring an attorney with experience to guide you through the process. At Cohen & Duncan Attorneys, LLC, we have helped many clients with such medical student professionalism appeals.

            In 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a decision in case called J. Endres v. Northeast Ohio Medical University that gave a thorough explanation of the distinction between academic and disciplinary dismissal and where a professionalism violation-based dismissal in medical school fits into that paradigm. The medical student Endres was dismissed from medical school based on an alleged professionalism violation in which he was accused of cheating on a test. As a general matter, medical student professionalism violations are typically classified as disciplinary misconduct actions – and as such, entitle a medical student to at least a minimal level of due process or fundamental fairness. The United States Supreme Court has already established that for disciplinary misconduct dismissals, a medical student is entitled to at least a hearing to present his or her side of the story.

            Sometimes, however, medical schools will try to classify a medical school professionalism appeal not as a disciplinary violation, but as an academic matter instead. In such academic dismissals, the lack of a hearing has been held to be constitutional. In Endres’ case, the medical school tried dismissing him without a hearing because it claimed that cheating on a test was an “academic” issue rather than a “disciplinary” issue. The Sixth Circuit determined that there is a straightforward way to tell when a university’s decision is disciplinary or academic – the key question is not whether the student’s conduct satisfies a subjective, predetermined standard of academic competence, but instead, whether the conduct occurred. Whether a medical student cheated on an exam is a question of whether the conduct in dispute occurred, and as such, the Sixth Circuit agreed that Endres was entitled at the very least to a due process hearing with Endres present, with an explanation of the evidence against him, and an opportunity to present his side of the story.  Other appellate opinions and district court opinions have considered this question, with varying results.

            The bottom line is that a medical student professionalism appeal can be crucial for medical students facing an alleged professionalism violation. There may be rights afforded to you to challenge investigations or sanctions imposed by your medical school. If you are facing an investigation or sanction by your medical school and need assistance with a medical student professionalism appeal, please contact the lawyers at Cohen & Duncan Attorneys, LLC for a free initial consultation regarding your matter, at cac@studentrightslawyers.com  or ad@studentrightslawyers.com.  

            The foregoing is not intended to serve as legal advice and should not be construed as such.  Each case is unique and our firm cannot offer legal advice to you unless and until we are retained as your counsel.


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