If you receive a letter from the USMLE(United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or Examination Committee for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) accusing you of irregular behavior you are being accused of cheating. Yes, the letter is an accusation of cheating. You will be asked to response to the accusation and given an opportunity to request to attend the Committee meeting where the USLME will consider the charge of “irregular behavior”. The charge of irregular behavior if substantiated will follow you throughout your medical career. Charges of irregular behavior can potentially affecting every aspect of your medical career. In some cases the irregular behavior charge will essentially terminating your medical career. Below are some of the common mistakes that I have found are commonly made by students in responding, preparing and defending themselves.
- Many times students believe that they can explain themselves and ask for forgiveness. Admissions made by unrepresented students can be fatal to their defense. Any and everything you say or do can be used against you at the hearing. One of the advantages of hiring a lawyer experienced in both law and medicine is that our response will be based on both the law and medicine. Many time students fully understand the medical issues, but are not trained to identify the legal issues. The initial response can be the key to a successful defense if the response is carefully crafted to address both medical and legal issues.
- Some students we have represented come to us for help after they have appeared before the Committee investigating “irregular behavior”. The Students believed that if they lost at the Committee level they could then hire a lawyer to prepare an appeal. In the majority of times this is a very incorrect assumption. The explanation by the students who waited after the Committee decision to hire a lawyer is they believed they could reason with the Committee and the Committee would understand. Essentially, the Students believed they could save money by waiting to hire an experienced medical-legal attorney. This assumption is incorrect. It is difficulty and expensive to overturn a Committee’s findings. The early an attorney is involved the less expensive and the more likely is the chance for success.
- The most common mistake I have found is inertia. Students have in some cases been paralyzed by fear. I believe the fundamental rule in any administrative procedure and especially “irregular behavior” charges is early preparation. From the first response to the obtaining of experts, the sooner this activities is undertaken the better your chance for success. Documents and expert reports need to be well organized. Time needs to be devoted to preparation for the hearing. Students in some cases have failed to act because they do not know how to respond and do not want to spend the money needed for professional representation.
- You must attend the hearing in Philadelphia represented by an experience medical-legal attorney. Failure to attend the hearing in Philadelphia is almost fatal to most cases. However, you have to request permission to attend. It important to attend and be prepared to answer questions by the Committee. The Committee members will ask you questions which you must be prepared to answer. Failure to prepare and attending the Committee hearing decreased your chance of a favor outcome and continuing your medical career.
- The USLME staff is neither your friend nor necessarily your enemy. The staff will develop the case for consideration of the USLME Committee. You must respond to their request. The Staff must be dealt with in an arm length transaction. Students representing themselves find it difficult to maintain the required arm length relationship necessary for success. Students will tend to view the staff as either friend or foe. The truth of the matter they are neither. The Staff is tasked with presenting information to the Committee. That is their job.
- One of the unconsidered factors that if have found is commonly overlooked is the medical aspect of a student’s case. Sometimes, medical conditions play an important role in the behavior that is questions. Failure to synthesize the medical aspect of the case with the legal is a common failure of both students and the lawyer representing them. Our team has been able to get a finding of “irregular behavior” reversed after another attorney unsuccessful appeal by discovering a medical condition that explained the medical student’s behavior.
- There is no substitute for experience and training. The attorney you hire gets the best results if he understands the profession and environment in which he/she practice. Experience and training is the key to obtain a satisfactory result
You have spent years of study, sweat, and money to become a physician. Don’t let an administrative agency derail your career.
Invest in your medical future by hiring an attorney experienced in both law and medicine. We provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and physicians in training. We have experience in medical administrative law. Our goal is to give you an aggressive, professional caring defense so as to obtain the best possible outcome based on the facts and law. We want you to benefit from our experience and training. We will advocate vigorously to protect your career.