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.

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 and fellow status:

  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 or fellow status is granted for a period of time generally not to encompass more than one academic year. Leaves of absence for graduate studies may encompass more than one academic year.
  4. You may request an extension of the 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 must reapply for entrance.

Leave of Absence or Placement on Fellow Status for Academic Reasons

The Associate Dean for Medical Education or the MCAS may designate a student for a leave of absence or fellow status. This is usually applied when a student must repeat coursework and cannot or should not continue to take additional medical school courses. For example, a student who has failed several courses in the first semester may be required to take a leave of absence during the second semester and repeat the failed courses during the first semester of the following academic year. The process by which a student can appeal a decision of the MCAS is described in Section IV.

Leave of Absence or Placement on Fellow Status for Medical Reasons

Students who encounter medical problems, including those of a psychological nature, may take a medical leave of absence or be placed on fellow status. 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 or fellow status.
  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 or fellow status. 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 or fellow status.
  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 receive 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 research activities or other scholarly endeavors under faculty supervision for a designated period of up to two years. Such students are authorized to use Brown University educational resources (e.g., the libraries), but are not permitted to register for any courses.

Such students may retain their Brown ID card and have it validated upon payment of the fee. Students on Medical Student Fellow status are certified as full-time students to agencies that might otherwise require repayment of their student loans. Contact Alexandra Morang, Director of Medical Student Affairs for further information, Box GA210, 863-1641.

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.