Medical students acquire skills and knowledge not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of another party – their patients. The duty to act in the best interest of the patient is the fundamental ethical principle of our medical profession. This duty dictates certain standards of professional behavior for medical students (and doctors) which include but are not limited to:
Honesty. Cheating on examinations, falsifying applications or data on medical records and other forms of intellectual dishonesty are wrong not only because such behavior violates intrinsic academic integrity, but also because such behavior may be deleterious to patients.
Professionalism. As future physicians responsible for the well-being of patients, medical students are held to very high standards of professional behavior. The professional behavior expected of medical students includes, but is not limited to, fulfilling all academic and extra-curricular commitments, responding to communications from AMS faculty and staff in a timely manner, notifying the appropriate personnel about anticipated absences within a reasonable time frame, adhering to clinical schedules in a punctual and responsible manner, and using appropriate and constructive language in written communications and evaluations of courses, clerkships, and faculty presenters. For more information, please see Section V of the Student handbook.
Health. Specific illnesses that impair performance include, but are not limited to, active drug and/or alcohol addiction, severe depression and other psychiatric illnesses and, occasionally, physical illnesses. It is not permissible for students to interact with patients while impaired by these conditions. It is the policy of the medical school to encourage recognition of illness which leads to impairment in medical students and to support treatment so that those students may continue their education successfully and without stigma.
Boundary violations with patients. It is never appropriate to have a sexual relationship with a current patient. Knowledge acquired during the doctor patient relationship should never be used for any purpose other than therapeutic. A romantic relationship based on this information is always inappropriate. (Relationships with other students, staff and faculty are not addressed in this policy, but are addressed by University policies.)
Criminal activities. These include but are not limited to, selling or dealing drugs, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, child abuse, violence against others, possession of child pornography and sexual activities resulting in legal designation as a registered sex offender. Such behavior is incompatible with medical professionalism.
Social networking. The medical school strongly advises students to exercise caution when using social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, You Tube, and blogs. These tools, while useful for interaction around social causes or political movements, can also create professional and ethical dilemmas regarding relationships with patients, patient confidentiality and patient trust in care providers. Additionally, they contribute to a blurring of the line between professional contexts, in which you represent Brown and the medical profession generally, and other more personal interactions. AMS students must be cognizant of the “social contract” between physicians and the public that holds medical professionals to high standards of behavior.
Specifically, students are prohibited from sharing personal expressions, in the form of text, photos, images or video, that:
- Violate patient confidentiality;
- Violate the doctor-patient relationship;
- Depict illegal activities.
Students are strongly discouraged from sharing personal expressions in the form of text, photos, images or video that could impair a student’s ability to form a therapeutic relationship with patients or to have a professional relationship with medical colleagues and supervisors. In short, the administration of AMS expects students, like physicians, to maintain a high level of professionalism in their non-medical public life.
There is an ethical imperative to report medical students and physicians who are in violation of these standards. Reports about students may be made to the Associate Dean for Medical Education. Reports about suspected health issues may be made to the Student Health Council rather than the administration. Anonymous reports will not be accepted but the anonymity of the reporter will be guaranteed. There will be no adverse consequences for the reporter for reports submitted in good faith, whether or not the suspicions are validated. Reports about faculty or other physicians, as appropriate, should be directed to preceptors, clerkship supervisors, hospital administrators, the Associate Dean for Medical Education or the Physician Health Committee of the RI Medical Society.
In cases where medical students violate the above standards of behavior, the Associate Dean for Medical Education may request that the Medical Committee on Academic Standing and Professionalism (MCASP) review pertinent information and meet with the student in order to determine an appropriate course of action. The MCASP has the authority to place a student on leave of absence when the student’s behavior raises questions as to whether or not the student should be in contact with patients. If the MCASP renders such a decision, the student may appeal the decision to the Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences (using the procedure described in Section IV of the Student Handbook).
The Academic Code
Alpert medical students are expected to adhere to Brown University’s Academic Code, which may be found here. Under usual circumstances, these policies will be applied to medical students. In some cases (e.g., parental notification), policies intended for undergraduate students may not be appropriate for medical students.
If it is determined by the Standing Committee that a medical student is in violation of the academic code, additional sanctions may be assessed by the MCASP. The hearing materials before the Standing Committee will be forwarded to the MCASP for consideration. The Chair of the Standing Committee shall participate as a non-voting member of the MCASP. The MCASP shall afford the student the opportunity to appear before the MCASP in order to speak and respond to questioning. The MCASP may also invite other individuals to appear for the purpose of providing information to the Committee. The student may be accompanied by a Brown University faculty or staff advisor, but may not be accompanied by an attorney. The student shall be informed of any sanctions enacted by the MCASP in a letter from the MCASP. The student will be informed in the letter that he or she has the right to appeal any decisions to the Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences.
Further guidelines can be found in the Academic Code Handbook. The Medical School will work with the University to determine due process.