Professionalism is a core competency for academic promotion and graduation and breaches in professional conduct are therefore considered an academic issue that may lead to student adverse actions. Professionalism concerns are behaviors that can interfere with the ability to successfully complete and progress through the medical school curriculum and clinical rotations. Professionalism is assessed by attendance and appropriate participation as part of a course or clerkship, and by general comportment during a student’s tenure at McGovern Medical School (MMS). The faculty has an obligation to the students, to the school, and to society to evaluate students and promote and graduate only those who have demonstrated their suitability for the practice of medicine both in cognitive and in noncognitive areas such as clinical ability, interpersonal relations, and personal conduct and professional characteristics. This obligation continues from matriculation to graduation. At the time of matriculation, students are made aware of and affirm their adherence to the Student Ethical Pledge.
Student Ethical Pledge
- I acknowledge and accept the privileges and responsibilities given to me today as a physician in training and dedicate myself to provide care to those in need.
- I will approach all aspects of my education with honesty and integrity, embracing opportunities to learn from patients, teachers and colleagues.
- I will always maintain the highest standards of professional conduct.
- I will certify only that which I have personally verified, and I will neither receive nor give unauthorized assistance on examinations.
- I will value the knowledge and wisdom of the physicians who have preceded me.
- I will recognize my weaknesses and strengths and strive to develop those qualities that will earn the respect of my patients, my colleagues, my family, and myself.
- I will respect the humanity, rights and decisions of all patients and will attend to them with compassion and without bias.
- I will maintain patient confidentiality and be tactful in my words and actions.
- I will value the diversity of patients’ experiences, cultures and beliefs because it enhances my ability to care for them and enriches my education.
- I will not forget that there is an art to medicine as well as a science and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are integral to patient care.
- I will strive to earn the trust my patients place in me and the respect that society places upon my profession.
- I recognize the privileges afforded to me as a physician-in-training and promise not to abuse them. Even as a student I have a responsibility to improve the standard of health in my community, to increase access to care for the underserved and to advance medical knowledge.
- As I accept these new responsibilities, I will not forget the importance of my own health and well-being. I will continue to value my relations with those who have supported me in the past and those who will share in my future.
- Knowing my own limitations and those of medicine, I commit myself to a lifelong journey of learning how to cure, relieve and comfort with humility and compassion.
- I make these promises solemnly, freely, and upon my honor.
Professionalism concerns may be submitted through a number of mechanisms including:
- Electronic Commendation/ Professionalism Concern form
- Formal assessment in a course or clerkship evaluation
- Direct reports to the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs, and/or the Office of Professionalism from faculty, staff, peers, or community members.
Professionalism concerns brought through the above mechanisms shall be triaged by a team consisting of three deans in the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs that determines the level of the breach of concern. The team may determine that a breach of professionalism, such as conduct occurring outside of the academic or clinical setting or that involves alleged criminal activities, is more appropriately addressed by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s overarching policy for student conduct and discipline, Handbook of Operating Procedures Policy 186.
This policy is intended to address concerns related to unprofessional behavior. There may be instances where unprofessional behavior may also be subject to Regents’ Rules, State or Federal law, or other institutional policies. This process does not preclude other actions/consequences, as appropriate.
Breach of minor or moderate concern
Examples of minor/ moderate infractions of professionalism include but are not limited to the following:
- a student repeatedly fails to attend a required activity without appropriate communication;
- a student repeatedly arrives late to a required activity;
- failure to submit assignments;
- a student does not respond in a timely manner to multiple communications from MMS administrative personnel;
- a student is disrespectful to a peer, staff, or faculty member;
- habitual tardiness or unexcused absenteeism.
Breaches of minor/ moderate concern are remediated by an informal meeting with the course director and/or the Vice Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs (or designee) to provide feedback and offer guidance about unprofessional behavior.
Breach of serious concern
Examples of serious infractions of professionalism include but are not limited to the following:
- a student has more than three minor/moderate breaches of professionalism;
- a student commits a violent act;
- a student mistreats others in the learning environment;
- a student engages in dishonesty such as lying or falsifying academic or medical records;
- a student is repeatedly disrespectful to staff;
- a student behaves in harassing manner to patients, staff, peers, or faculty;
- a student engages in illegal activity.
Alleged breaches of serious concerns are addressed by the Student Evaluations and Promotions Committee, which decides the remedial plan or adverse action. An adverse action includes repetition of the course or academic year, or dismissal.
Students with breaches of serious concern are given timely written notification of the pending possible adverse action and notified of the opportunity to meet with and respond to the Student Evaluations and Promotions Committee (SEPC). The notice will contain sufficient details regarding the specific conduct raising professionalism concerns that are the basis for the SEPC’s review, including, where applicable, the date(s), time(s), and location(s) of any alleged conduct and the identity of any other involved parties, if known.
Prior to the SEPC meeting, the student will be invited to meet with a designee from the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs to discuss the process.
The student may submit a written statement detailing any mitigating circumstances that the student contends may have affected their performance. In addition to the written statement, the student may elect to appear in person before the SEPC. The student may be accompanied by an advocate of their choice. The advocate may attend the meeting but may not actively participate or address the SEPC. The student must provide advance written notice of the advocate’s name, address, and telephone number (and in the case of an attorney, a Texas State Bar license number) to the chair of the SEPC at least two (2) business days before the meeting. If the student’s advisor is an attorney, the SEPC shall also request the attendance of a university attorney.
The student will be notified of the meeting date at least five (5) business days before the meeting.
The SEPC will review the cumulative record of the student, all relevant information, and, if applicable, the student’s written statement and response. After deliberation the SEPC, by majority vote, will determine the appropriate remediation or adverse action, if any. After the SEPC reaches a decision, the student will be sent a written notice of the decision within three (3) business days.
If the student is dissatisfied with the decision of the SEPC, they can submit a written appeal to the dean or designee within fourteen (14) business days of receipt of the SEPC decision. The decision of the dean or designee is final. After the dean reaches a decision, the student will be sent a written notice of the decision within fourteen (14) business
This Policy was adapted with permission from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and largely based on the work of Dr. Maxine Papadakis, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and upon the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School Professionalism Policy.