Section XII: Policies on Fellow Status and Leaves of Absence

General Information

Students may find it desirable to take time off from their academic activities for a variety of professional and personal reasons. Students who would like to take a leave of absence for a semester or more should consult with their Academy Director, the Associate Dean for Medical Education and/or the Director of Student Affairs, and the Director of Financial Aid.

As an alternative to a leave of absence, some students may transition to fellow status. Fellow status allows a student to remain active with the University, thus having access to University facilities and resources (see below).

In cases involving academic performance, professional behavior, or medical issue (including those of a psychological nature), the determination as to whether a student will be placed on a leave of absence or fellowship status will be made by the Associate Dean for Medical Education in consultation with the Director of Student Affairs.


The following policies and procedures pertain to leaves of absence:

  1. The University Registrar will be notified of your change in status.
  2. The Association of American Medical Colleges will be notified of your change in status.
  3. Your leave of absence is granted for a minimum of one semester and generally not to encompass more than one academic year. Leaves of absence for graduate studies may encompass more than one academic year with the approval of the student's academy advisor, the registrar and the Director of Financial Aid.
  4. You may request an extension of the original leave of absence or fellow status by writing such a request to the Associate Dean for Medical Education who may grant the request if he/she believes a further period will serve the best interest of you or the medical program.
  5. Upon expiration of the leave of absence or fellow status, you will be readmitted to the medical school without application contingent upon hearing from you on your interest to be readmitted, unless there were other contingencies placed on readmission (e.g., cases involving psychological issues).
  6. If you do not return to the medical school upon expiration of your leave of absence, you will be withdrawn from the university.

Leave of Absence for Medical Reasons

Students who encounter medical problems, including those of a psychological nature, may take a medical leave of absence. The same policies and procedures described above for leaves of absence in general apply. In addition, certain specific guidelines are followed that pertain to a medical leave of absence for psychological reasons. These are as follows:

  1. When a student is identified by an advisor or faculty member as possibly suffering from emotional problems, the office of the Associate Dean for Medical Education should be notified by the advisor or faculty member.
  2. The Associate Dean will request an interview with the student. If the student refuses to meet, the Associate Dean will deal with the situation administratively. That is, the Associate Dean may place the student on a leave of absence.
  3. Should the Associate Dean feel the emotional problem is of such duration or severity as to affect academic or professional performance, and might require treatment, the Associate Dean may place the student on a leave of absence. The student will be requested to have a psychiatric evaluation by a psychiatrist chosen from a panel of consultants, fee to be paid by the Associate Dean's office. By signed consent of the student, information will be given to the Associate Dean to permit proper educational planning.
  4. Should treatment be recommended by the consultant to the Associate Dean, such treatment will be at the expense of the student (typically covered by health insurance) and entirely confidential.
  5. Refusal of recommended consultation will be considered a violation of health procedures designed for the best interests of the student, patients, and the community at large, and will be dealt with administratively. That is, the Associate Dean may place the student on a leave of absence.
  6. Refusal of recommended treatment, where treatment is felt necessary for the continuation of student status, will also be considered as adversely affecting students' continued status as such, and subject to reasonable action by the Associate Dean for Medical Education, including placement of the student on a leave of absence.
  7. Once in treatment, the student is to be judged as any other student would be on the basis of his/her functioning in classes and in his/her expected work. Should the progress of the student in therapy be questioned, such evaluation would be by reevaluation by the original evaluator, not the therapist.
  8. Should treatment be recommended, the student will be encouraged to select a therapist other than the psychiatrist conducting the evaluation. However, should the student and the evaluating psychiatrist mutually agree to continue that relationship into therapy, a different psychiatrist will be designated to conduct any further evaluation as noted in #7.

If the student is directed by the Associate Dean to take a medical leave of absence due to psychological reasons, the following guidelines will be followed in considering readmission:

A student returning from a medical leave of absence for psychological reasons must be reexamined by the original evaluator to determine if her/his recovery is sufficient to permit a recommendation for readmission. If the original evaluator is unavailable or the student desires a different evaluator, then the student will be allowed to choose a second evaluator from the list, maintained by the Associate Dean for Medical Education, of professionals available to do such evaluations. This will include the professional staff of Psychological Services.

The recommendation of the evaluator will be transmitted to the Associate Dean for Medical Education who has the authority to make the final decision.

The following expectations prevail in determining if such students are psychologically ready to return to the university:

The student must be free of any psychiatric symptoms which interfere with competent functioning. The student must be able to pursue individual academic and social goals without detracting from the goals and welfare of other students or making excessive or unreasonable demands on university support systems and personnel or others with whom the student interacts in pursuit of academic and social goals including patients and hospital staff.

“Excessive or unreasonable demands” is defined as interruption of the normal daily workload of one or more academic or hospital departments which results from a student's misconduct, frequent requests for service, or from behavior which causes other individuals in the university or hospitals to interrupt the usual operations of one or more departments on behalf of the student.

In order to determine whether or not a student demonstrates these capacities, the following evaluations will be made:

  • An assessment of the current mental state of the student.
  • An assessment of the appropriateness of the student's academic and social plans in consultation with the Associate Dean who will make the decision regarding readmission.
  • An assessment of the student's support system—family and friends—and its part in the recovery and the potential readjustment of the student to the medical school.
  • An assessment of the general activities of the student during the time away from Brown, to determine their contribution to the student's readiness to return.
  • An opinion on the need for reexamination at a specified later date (this reexamination being independent of any ongoing treatment which the student may or may not continue to receive after returning to Brown).

When a student has been in psychotherapy during his or her time away, a written statement from the therapist should be sent to the Associate Dean for Medical Education indicating:

  • The therapist's concurrence with the student's plans to return to the university.
  • Any plans for the student's follow-up care.
  • Whether any medication has been a part of the student's treatment, and if so, its purpose, dosages and duration of use.
  • Students granted a medical withdrawal for psychological reasons will receive a copy of these guidelines.
  • Students who are hospitalized (while enrolled in the university) in an inpatient psychiatric facility will be subject to the same expectations whether or not a medical leave is granted.

Leave of Absence for Advanced Study

The same policies and procedures are followed for a leave of absence for advanced study as those that pertain to leaves of absence in general. However, students pursuing an advanced degree, particularly a Ph.D., may request (from the Associate Dean of Medical Education) a leave of absence for longer than one year in order to allow them to complete a course of study that typically requires three years or so to finish. As with leaves of absence in general, students on extended leaves of absence are readmitted without application and their places are secured. Students may be required to submit periodic reports of their progress and their plans including transcripts and letters from officials of the other institution as a condition of their extended leave of absence.

Medical Student Fellow Status

Medical students may be excused from attending classes to participate in an approved research activity or other scholarly endeavor under faculty supervision for a designated period of no less than one semester and no more than two years. Students cannot be enrolled in another degree-granting program or credit-bearing course while on fellow status. While on fellow status, the student maintains full-time status, has access to all student services (email account, building card access, and library services) and is charged a $100 fee per semester. If students require access to Health Services during fellow status they may request access through the medical school's registrar and a Health Services fee will be charged to the student's Banner account.

Students on Medical Student Fellow status are certified as full-time students to agencies that might otherwise require repayment of their student loans. Questions regarding financial aid and loan repayment while on fellow status should be directed to the Director of Financial Aid, Linda Gillette, at 863-1142.

Further details regarding applying for Medical Fellow Status or a LOA can be found here.

Process for Assessing Student's Ability to Continue in the Medical School Should Disability Occur After Matriculation at Brown University

  1. A student who develops a disability after matriculation at Brown University may be identified to the Office of Medical Student Affairs through a variety of sources, e.g., reporting of accident or illness by peers, family, friends, or faculty and subsequent follow-up with health professionals managing the care.
  2. If the degree to which the student has become disabled raises questions related to meeting the competency requirements after a review by the Associate Dean for Medical Education, a meeting of an ad hoc committee will be set up to discuss the situation. The student will be asked to meet with the committee members, unless the disability is so severe that the student needs to be represented by another individual. The health professional responsible for the student's care will also be asked to provide information. In some cases, it might be more appropriate to have a health professional, not directly involved in the care, serve as a consultant to the committee on the issues surrounding the disability.
  3. The ad hoc committee will develop a recommendation as to the student's ability to successfully pursue a medical education based on his or her ability to meet the competency requirements of the medical program. These educational accommodations will be discussed with the appropriate course directors to be certain that there is agreement on how the student will be managed. If facilities accommodations are recommended, the committee will discuss these with the appropriate individuals to be certain that the need for the disabled student can be provided. The committee's recommendations will be discussed with the student or his or her representative in the event the student cannot attend.
  4. When the recommendation is that the disabled student can meet the medical program's competency requirements, the committee will develop a report on any educational program accommodations, that if made will still meet the competency requirements.
  5. Should the decision of the committee be to recommend to the Dean that the student be dropped from enrollment in the medical program, the normal due process appeals mechanism will be in effect, and the student affairs office will work with the individual as appropriate on potential alternative career options. For students in the Program in Liberal Medical Education continuum, being dropped from the program due to inability to meet the competency requirements for medical education does not necessitate the withdrawal of the student from the undergraduate college if that phase of the student's education has not been completed.

For other pertinent policies, see:
          Section X - Appeal & Grievance Procedure.