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Standards of Professional Behavior

The College of Medicine Dean's Office is committed to promoting a learning environment that is free of any kind of abuse, discrimination or harassment of students. To that end, a formal policy of Standards of Conduct, including the response process regarding allegations, has been developed and approved.

Although we encourage students to try to work through problems with anyone who does not treat them in a professional manner, we know that this is not always possible. If a student believes they have been the recipient of inappropriate behavior and wishes to contact the Mediator, as described in the Standards of Conduct below, the student should contact:

    Susan C. Harvey, M.D.
    Associate Professor and
    Vice-Chair of Clinical Operations
    Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine
    Office - 792-2322
    Simon Pager - 1-4036
    Cell Phone - 514-7593

We also encourage students to talk to a trusted faculty or staff member prior to contacting the Mediator to discuss a potential problem. As with many situations in life, a second opinion can be valuable before setting on a course of formal complaint.

Statement of Standards

The College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina is committed to maintaining an academic and clinical environment in which faculty, fellows, residents, students, nurses and staff can work together freely to further education and research and to provide the highest level of patient care, whether in the classroom, the laboratory, or clinics. The College's goal is to train physicians to meet high standards of professionalism and practice in an environment where effective, humane and compassionate patient care is demanded and expected. To this end, the College recognizes that each member of the medical school community should be accepted as an autonomous individual and treated civilly, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, disability or any other factor irrelevant to participation in the activities of the College. Diversity in background, outlook and interest among faculty, fellows, residents, nurses, staff, students and patients inherent in the practice of medicine, and appreciation and understanding of such diversity is an important aspect of medical training. As part of that training, the College strives to impart values of professional and collegial attitudes and behaviors in interactions among members of the College community and between these members, patients and their families. The College prohibits attitudes and behaviors toward students, residents and fellows, which are unfavorable to the development of mutual respect. Such prohibited behavior may include, but is not limited t

    1) Harassment of a Sexual Nature

        a) Denying the opportunity for training or rewards because of gender;
        b) Requesting sexual favors in exchange for grades or other awards;
        c) Making unwanted sexual advances;
        d) Displaying sexually suggestive or pornographic materials; or
        e) Grading or evaluating based upon gender rather than performance or merit.

    2) Discrimination and Harassment

        a) Denying the opportunity for training or rewards because of age, race, religious affiliation or any attribute other than merit 
            or performance;
        b) Any conduct directly intended to insult or stigmatize;
        c) Exclusion from any reasonable educational opportunity for any reason other than performance or merit;
        d) Requiring performance of personal services such as babysitting or shopping;
        e) Showing favoritism based upon any attribute other than performance or merit and thereby reducing educational 
            opportunities available;
        f) Grading or evaluating based upon any attribute of other than performance and/or merit;
        g) Any inappropriate physical treatment, such as hitting, slapping or kicking, or threatening such treatment;
        h) Requiring performance of menial tasks with the intent to humiliate

    3) Other Forms of Inappropriate Treatment

        a) Public belittling
        b) A consistent pattern of neglect or lack of communication
        c) Taking credit for another individual's work

Ongoing Education of Standards of Conduct

Part of a teacher's responsibility is to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning. In medical education, an equally important role for teachers is to emphasize appropriate values, including an attitude of caring. One of the effective ways in which teachers can emphasize this attitude of caring and promote a positive learning environment is to show an attitude of respect toward students. Such an attitude can be demonstrated by providing support and encouragement to students and showing an interest in their educational development. Inappropriate treatment of students represents the opposite of a supportive and caring approach to teaching.

Education of the College's community concerning appropriate treatment serves several purposes. First, it promotes a positive environment for learning, characterized by attitudes of mutual respect and collegiality. Second, it informs persons who believe that they have been treated inappropriately that avenues for seeking redress are available. Third, it alerts potential offenders to the College's policy on and process of responding to allegations of inappropriate treatment.

Methods of communicating the appropriate treatment policy to specific groups are as follows:

    a) Medical Students

A section on appropriate treatment will be included in the College of Medicine section of the University Bulletin. Each year, this topic will be included in the agenda for the orientation of first, second and third year students. Reference to this topic will be made in the course policies for each preclinical course and clinical rotation. A web site devoted to this policy will be available on the College's web site with contact names and numbers.

    b) Faculty, Fellows and Residents

An informative written message will be sent each year from the Dean's office to all department chairs. The message will direct the preclinical department chairs to convey the information to all course directors of first and second year courses. In turn, the course directors will present the information to all faculty involved in teaching their courses so that they know and understand the policy. For clinical department chairs, the message will direct them to convey the information to clerkship and program directors to assure that all faculty, fellows and residents in their departments know and understand the policy. A copy of the policy will be available on the Graduate Medical Education's web site with contact names and numbers.

    c) Nurses

An informative written message will be sent each year from the Dean's Office to the office of the Administrator for Clinical Services to explain the policy. In turn, the Nurse Managers will convey the policy to the nursing staff to ensure that they know and understand the policy. A copy will be available on the Clinical Service's Intranet web site with contact names and numbers.

Response Process

For all allegations of inappropriate conduct not covered by any other MUSC policy or procedure, such as the sexual harassment policy, the following will apply:

    a) Introduction

When an allegation of inappropriate treatment occurs, the parties directly involved should try to resolve the matter themselves, since most incidents are amenable to resolution in this manner. In some situations, however, this informal approach might be hindered by various factors, including reluctance of the accuser to approach the accused, intransigence of the accused, or differing perceptions of the incident by the parties involved. In such cases, a more formal alternative process is available for resolving the matter. This process is designed to be fair to both the accuser and the accused and to be perceived by the accuser as effective, impartial and unlikely to result in retaliation.

    b) The Mediator

The position of the Mediator has been established to help resolve such conflicts. The role of the Mediator, as the name implies, is to mediate between the conflicting parties and strive for reconciliation. Either the accuser or the accused may contact the Mediator to seek assistance in resolving the conflict. The Mediator will encourage the parties to work out the problem between themselves, but also will be available as facilitator for this process. To achieve neutrality, as well as the appearance of neutrality, the Mediator is appointed by the Dean for a 2-year term.

    c) The Conflict-Resolution Council

It is anticipated that the Mediator's assistance will result in the resolution of most cases brought to their attention. However, if a reasonable effort does not yield a solution, the Mediator has a council available to help resolve the case. The council also is available for any case in which the accuser or the accused is not satisfied with the results obtained through the Mediator's efforts. The purposes of the council include the following:

    1) Ascertain the facts by interviewing other individuals with relevant knowledge, review any documentary evidence or take other 
        actions deemed necessary to establish the facts of the matter.
    2) Mediate between the parties
    3) Strive for reconciliation

The council will assess the evidence as objectively as possible and protect the rights of the accused and accuser.

Eight groups will be represented on the ten-member council: preclinical students (1), clinical students (2), preclinical faculty (1), clinical faculty (2), residents (1), nurses (1), Office of Diversity (1), and Office of Gender Equity (1). A quorum consists of five members. The Mediator is not to be a member of the council. Student representatives are nominated by the College of Medicine Student Council, faculty representatives by the department Chairpersons, resident representatives by the Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, nurse representative by the Administrator of Clinical Services, Office of Diversity representative by the Associate Dean for Diversity and the Office of Gender Equity representative by the Director of Gender Equity. Nominations are submitted to the Dean, who appoints the council. Each member of the council will serve for a term of (1) one-year and can be reappointed twice consecutively with a maximum term of three (3) consecutive years. The Chair of the committee will be appointed by the Dean and will serve a term of (2) two years.

    d) Council Procedures

The council becomes involved in a given case only after the Mediator has made reasonable efforts to resolve it. As a courtesy, the Mediator will contact either the department chair, when the allegations involve a faculty member, or the residency program director, when the allegations involve a resident, or the Administrator of Clinical Services when the allegations involve a member of the nursing staff, and explain to them the nature of the allegation and the procedures that will be followed in an effort to resolve the matter. When the council hears a case, the Mediator, accuser, and the accused are present. The Chair is responsible for notifying the parties concerning the time and place of the council meeting. The proceedings begin with the Mediator presenting the case. The accuser and the accused both have an opportunity to speak and to bring witnesses to speak. The order of speakers is as follows: (1) the accuser; (2) witness for the accuser; (3) the accused: and (4) witnesses for the accused. The accused has the right to be present whenever the Mediator, the accuser or witnesses, is making statements. Witnesses will be present only when they are called to give information. After speaking, they will be asked to leave, in order to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved. Both the accused and the accuser can be harmed by breaches of confidentiality. In some situations the Mediator or council might be justified in communicating ordinarily confidential information to other university officials, provided there is a legitimate "need to know." The accuser and accused will not bring lawyers to council meetings, as advocates, advisors, or observers, as this process is administrative and academic rather than judicial. While legal counsel shall not be permitted, this would not preclude a lay advisor from attending the proceedings. This process is intramural and is intended to avoid complaints being filed outside the university.

When the council finds that serious inappropriate treatment has occurred, a letter will be sent from the council to the Dean, summarizing the findings of the council. The Dean will then decide what action to take. The Dean or Dean's delegate (perhaps the Mediator) will advise the accused and the accuser concerning the Dean's final disposition of the matter.

Decisions about whether a letter should be sent to the Dean should be made on a case-by-case basis. It is a matter of judgement by the council, based on the degree of offensiveness of the behavior and the strength of evidence that the behavior occurred. Also, it is conceivable that the council might become aware of a history of recurring inappropriate treatment behavior by a given individual. In such a situation, a letter might be warranted even if each occurrence of inappropriate treatment, considered alone, would not be regarded as serious enough to justify a letter. In general, if the conflicting parties resolve the matter between themselves, the council might decide that a letter is not warranted. On the other hand, if the offense is serious or recurring, a letter might be appropriate even if the conflicting parties have reached reconciliation. In exceptional circumstances it might be appropriate for the Mediator to inform the Dean concerning a complaint before the council meets.

If it is the Mediator's judgement that the council should be brought into a case, the accused does not have the right to prevent the council from meeting. A function of the council is to decide whether the matter should be brought to the attention of the Dean. It is in the interest of the accused to meet with the council, in an attempt to prevent a letter to being sent to the Dean. If the accused refuses to attend the council meeting, the council will still meet to decide if a letter should be sent.

If a student who believes that they have been treated inappropriately approaches a council member, the council member will refer the student to the Mediator.

The Mediator maintains essential records.

An additional duty of the council is periodically to evaluate and improve the ongoing education of the campus community concerning appropriate treatment.

    e) Protection from Retaliation

Every effort will be made to protect alleged victims of inappropriate treatment from retaliation if they seek redress. Although impossible to guarantee freedom from retaliation, it is possible to take steps to try to prevent it and set up a process for responding to it. To help prevent retaliation, those who are accused of inappropriate treatment will be informed that retaliation is regarded as a form of inappropriate treatment. Accusations that retaliation has occurred will be handled in the same manner as accusations concerning other forms of inappropriate treatment, using the Mediator and council if necessary.

    f) Relation to Other University and Hospital Policies

This policy is intended to complement, supplement, and clarify existing and future departmental and University wide policies which shall remain controlling on addressing inappropriate behavior by or toward students, residents and fellows.

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