I've never said this before, but today I am thankful that I'm not a student at the San Juan Bautista School of Medicine.
Thanksgiving, medical education and Internet turkeys
When problems occur at a healthcare institution, one of the first things you hear is that the facility's accreditation—from the Joint Commission, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or some other judgment-passing entity—is in danger.
And, while it may be true that a place's clinical or academic life is in jeopardy ("Loss of accreditation." "What is something that rarely happens?" "Correct." "Empty Threats for $400, Alex …."), the threat usually passes.
San Juan Bautista is one example where the threat was carried out, or—to be more precise—is being dragged out.
On Nov. 22, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. District Judge Gustavo Gelpi dismissed the school's suit against the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accreditation body for U.S. and Canadian medical schools.
That decision followed a June 13 LCME decision (affirmed on Oct. 3 after a Sept. 12 appeals hearing) to withdraw accreditation, which was then vacated by Judge Gelpi (PDF) on Oct. 28. Gelpi ordered that a new appeals panel be formed to render a decision by Nov. 21.
The new panel met Nov. 16 in Chicago and issued a letter (PDF) stating that the decision to withdraw accreditation "was based on a procedural error."
The appeals panel instead placed the school on probation until a full accreditation survey takes place Jan. 29-Feb. 1.
After that, the only legal matter remaining was the Nov. 22 hearing at which Judge Gelpi washed his hands of the affair.
According to the Oct. 28 document, the school's affiliated medical center filed for bankruptcy in March 2011. This triggered an LCME investigation of students' clinical experiences. (According to documents, the power company threatened to shut off the medical center's electricity unless a disputed claim of more than $21 million was settled and the bankruptcy filing kept the power on.) It was decided that contingency plans with other local institutions didn't provide enough clinical experience for the school's 77 third-year students, and the LCME rescinded its accreditation.
I suppose putting the school on probation instead is good news, but it also keeps 275 students in limbo.
Eleven did find a new home at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California, which is one of the feel-good stories of the season—unless you read the Internet comments that appear after it.
SJB student B. Fernandez wrote to ask what happens to the rest of the class and don't they deserve the same chance? Surprisingly, B.'s note received just one nasty comment from the Web's anonymous braying choir. "Nothing but entitlement" was the screeching reply. The anonymous commenter added how Fernandez was lucky because, being only a first-year student, there wasn't a four-year pile of debt to pay off.
Yes, I'm thankful I'm not a SJB med student—and that I don't feel the need to post anonymous Internet comments.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.
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