School of Medicine accreditation at stake, report finds a history of misconduct

Recurring student mistreatment could lead to the school losing its accreditation in two years if the school fails to make improvements.
Students walking into the MU School of Medicine.

MU’s School of Medicine could be put on probation for being noncompliant in its levels of diversity, gender discrimination, student mistreatment, curricular management and affiliation with other medical centers.

The school must show progress with these issues within two years or else it will lose its accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, according to the Columbia Missourian. If this happens, the school may be unable to provide legitimate medical degrees. School of Medicine Dean Patrice Delafontaine has until Dec. 1 to send an action plan to the committee.

One of the major issues within the school has been the mistreatment of students. Students at MU experience higher amounts of harassment in comparison to the national average, according to a June LCME report obtained by the Missourian through an open-records request.

Forty-three percent of students said they were publicly humiliated at least once while at the school, while the national average of public humiliation in medical schools is 19 percent. Similarly, 22 percent of students said they were targeted by offensive or sexist comments at least once, in comparison to the national average of 14 percent.

Specific examples of students’ mistreatment were removed from the report by the university prior to its public release.

This is not the first time the school has learned about these issues. The demands of student activist group Concerned Student 1950 indicated the lack of minorities within the school. In general, the population of students of color within the school has been low for years, according to previous Missourian reporting. In the School of Medicine class of 1997, there was one black graduate. Even now, there are only around a dozen graduates, according to U.S. News and World Report.

When the school was evaluated for its full accreditation in 2008, LCME noted that the school did not properly comply with the diversity standards. In order to receive the full accreditation, the school established Warren Lockette as senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion. Since then, the population of minority students has been increasing, though this year it decreased from 5 percent to 3.3 percent.

According to LCME’s report, the school’s long history with noncompliant levels of diversity and its lack of progress are what causes concern for the committee, rather than just this year's numbers.

The school also had unclear affiliations with other health centers, such as Mercy Hospital St. Louis. These affiliations are required written agreements intended to provide students access to different types of clinical experiences.

The school's agreements were deemed inadequate because they lacked important details regarding its affiliates. In addition, the school did not provide LCME with the written agreement for its students to receive MU’s health care plan during their evaluation.

The school has had recent difficulty passing other accreditation evaluations, including in 2009 when the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education put the school under probation for subpar education standards.

These standards, in addition to a slew of other issues, were brought back up in the new report.

Students identified two neurology clerkships as being too brief in 2008. To lift the probation eight years ago, the school promised to extend the programs’ lengths to four weeks. However, the clerkships are still two weeks long because there has been a lack of faculty to support and expand the programs. LCME cited this as an example of poor curricular management.

Delafontaine will hold a press conference in early October further discussing the report and future measures the school will take.

Edited by Claire Mitzel |

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