Attendance Standards

A. General Principles

Students at the Medical College are physicians-in-training who are expected to carry out all academic responsibilities in a professional manner. The Medical College has a duty to establish criteria for professional comportment as an important component of its mission to train students to become effective physicians. Students must handle absences from required Medical College activities in a manner that reflects a standard of professional responsibility for practicing physicians. When a student does not attend a required session, and has not provided in advance an appropriate request for permission or explanation of the absence, as described below, the student is in violation of the standards of conduct required for students at the Medical College (see Section IV herein). This policy on student absences sets out the criteria and process for handling absences from academic duties; it also applies to students taking courses at the Medical College who are from other medical schools.

The integrated curriculum of the Medical College in the first two years uses many kinds of learning formats, including lectures and collaborative formats. Unless specified otherwise, attendance at all course activities including lectures is mandatory. Several of the formats promote active learning by requiring students to work collaboratively in the educational process. In collaborative learning formats, student attendance will often contribute to the student’s academic mastery of that component. The course director has the discretion to determine which learning sessions, including lectures, large groups or recitations, are optional , and the course director will inform the students of any such exceptions in the course syllabus.

The clinical phase of the curriculum mandates the full time commitment of the students in all patient-care and didactic activities. The student’s presence on the clinical floors of the hospital is critical to the learning experience because it provides opportunities to observe and to participate in acute medical management decisions. Students are required to attend all lectures, rounds, case presentations, conferences, clinics, on-call periods, and other experiences as designated by the course director.

Types of Absences

Generally, the Medical College recognizes that emergent absences due to illness, personal emergency, or family emergency are not under the control of students and that it may be impossible for students to consult with course directors prior to being absent for these reasons. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon the student to notify the course director or the Associate Dean (Student Affairs) as soon as possible when these events occur so that the Medical College may be assured of the student’s well being and may make plans with the student regarding the resumption of regular activities. Such events are not to be confused with other absences which can be anticipated and planned for in advance (e.g., major family events or celebrations, professional off-campus events, residency interviews). Only through proper notification and/or permission (see below) will these types of absences be considered “excused” absences by the Medical College.

Absences without proper notification, including planned absences without prior request for permission, are considered “unexcused absences”. Such absences may result in sanctions that may include, but are not limited to, receiving a zero grade for the activity missed, receiving a marginal grade in the course, or if serious, receiving a failing grade in the course.

Some voluntary absences are not considered reasonable by the Medical College. Actions such as purchasing tickets for travel or engaging in other elective activities on course instruction days are not acceptable practice. Students who engage in such conduct must assume full responsibility for whatever ramifications in their performance assessment result from their actions, as described above, since these actions result in unexcused absences. Course directors are not required to administer make-up examinations, equivalent or extra sessions to accommodate these voluntary unexcused absences. (Note that watching videotapes of required course activities is not a substitute for live attendance for students who do not have an excused absence. Videotapes are considered adjunctive learning resources.)

Time Frame Expectations

In general, the time frame for an absence is expected to be no more than two consecutive days (including a Friday-Monday sequence). Emergent absences expected to last more than two days require that the student notify the Associate Dean (Student Affairs). Planned absences of more than two days require that the student first obtain the permission of the Associate Dean (Academic Affairs), or if unavailable, the Associate Dean (Curricular Affairs), before requesting permission of the course director. When a student is uncertain about whether an absence will be considered potentially excusable, he or she should consult one of the associate education deans (student affairs, academic affairs, curricular affairs) for advice.

B. Request and Notification

In general, absences are excused at the discretion of the course director, and prior permission to be excused from a scheduled activity is to be sought by the student in writing (e-mail is acceptable). Students must ask for permission individually for themselves; students may not request permission for absences on behalf of other students. Emergent absences require notification and planned absences require both notification and permission in order to be considered excused.

Students who will be absent emergently (or are absent for reasons beyond the student’s control) are expected to notify the course director, or, in the case of planned or voluntary absences, are expected to request permission of the course director in order to have the absence considered to be excused. In the notification or permission discussion with the student, the course director will determine how the appropriate faculty or administrators are to be notified and the role of the student in this process. In any discussion of a requested absence, the student must include an explicit discussion of:
  • the reason for the absence
  • the student’s plan to acquire the information missed
  • the arrangement by the student for coverage of all clinical or course responsibilities
  • the student’s arrangements to identify and notify all faculty, housestaff, and students affected by the absence
  • the time frame of the absence
Faculty Notification about Student Absences

Faculty members should notify either the course director or curriculum office (in the first two years) or the clerkship director (in the clinical years) of any student who has an unexcused absence, as soon as the absence is known. The course director, in turn, should notify the Office of Academic Affairs of any unexcused absences of more than one day’s duration.

C. Making up absences

Generally, the work or activities that are missed from academic programs, regardless of the reason for the absence, must be made up. The course director has full discretion to guide the content and/or the nature of the work that needs to be addressed or completed.

D. Categories of Absences
  1. Illness

    In the case of an individual’s illness, the student must notify the course director or a designated faculty member as soon as the student feels the illness will interfere with attendance and must discuss the points included under Request and Notification. If the student is unable to reach the course director or designated faculty member, the student must notify the Associate Dean (Student Affairs). If the student is too ill to attend scheduled educational activities, the faculty member may recommend that the student consult with the Associate Dean (Student Affairs), or be seen in student health. This is to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment and to avoid cases of undertreatment for serious illness. Making up the missed work to the satisfaction of the course director is mandatory.

  2. Personal/family emergency

    In the case of personal or family emergency, the student must notify the course director or a designated faculty member as soon as the student is aware of the emergency. The student must discuss the anticipated length of the absence as fully as possible with the course director, and must arrange for a way to be in communication with the Medical College to monitor the course of events. As noted above, if the absence exceeds or is expected to exceed two days the student must notify the Associate Dean (Student Affairs). In cases where the time frame is not clear, the student must discuss a plan to provide periodic updates on the situation. Making up the missed work to the satisfaction of the course director is mandatory.

  3. Major family events

    Absences from class to attend major family events (which are scheduled by others without consideration of the student’s schedule) require permission of the course director as soon as the student is aware of the date. If the activity extends for two or more days, the student must consult with the Associate Dean (Academic Affairs). Making up the missed work to the satisfaction of the course director is mandatory and the course director’s decision is final.

  4. Professional off-campus events

    Academic activities (professional meetings, paper/research presentations) that interfere with course instruction days must be discussed with the course director as soon as the date of the activity is known. The discussion, which is a request for permission to attend the academic activity, must include a statement of the student’s exact role in the academic activity, the mechanism for making up missed course content, the student’s plan for covering all responsibilities, and notifications as discussed above. In the case of professional conferences, the student should describe how the conference would provide added value above that of the required curriculum to the student’s learning and/or career plans. After discussion with the course director, the student must also obtain permission from any module leaders or small group leaders that will be impacted by the absence. The course director may take into account the student’s academic standing in the course in the decision to grant permission for the absence. If the activity extends for two or more days, the student must consult with the Associate Dean (Academic Affairs). Making up the missed work to the satisfaction of the course director is mandatory and the course director’s decision is final.

  5. Residency interviews

    It is not recommended that students schedule required course work during the time that they will be interviewing for residency programs. Any absences attributed to interviews for residency programs must be discussed with and approved by the course/clerkship director prior to their occurrence. Absences due to residency interviews that constitute more than 10% of the days in the course or rotation are considered a significant loss of course/rotation time. The course/clerkship director will determine the scope of any work that needs to be addressed or completed as a result of absences related to travel for interviews for residency programs.

  6. Subinternships

    Because of the high level of responsibility on subinternships, subinterns are expected to work each day for the entire rotation. They are not excused on Medical College holidays. If the student must miss clinical responsibilities for any reason, the student must help in making covering arrangements. The course director has full discretion to determine if the work performed by the student satisfies the course requirements.

  7. Personal Commitments

    Activities relating to major personal commitments should be scheduled so that they do not conflict with Medical College academic and clinical responsibilities. Students should check the academic calendar well in advance of making any major plans so that these activities are not scheduled during mornings and afternoons on days when courses are in session. If there is a potential that they will interfere with academic activities, the student must request permission from the appropriate course director, even if the course involved falls in the next academic year. Discussion and a request for permission from the course director must occur as soon as the date of the personal activity is known, and students should obtain prior permission to be excused from the academic activity. Absences in this category must be limited in number and any course work missed due to these personal events must be made up to the satisfaction of the course director. Course directors are not required to administer make-up examinations or special sessions to accommodate students who are absent for these kinds of personal activities.

E. Religious holidays

In the case of religious holidays which do not fall on official Medical College holidays, students should refer to Section VIII entitled “Religious Observances”.

F. Jury Duty

New York State has rigorous regulations regarding service on juries and does not allow students to be excused from jury duty.

A student who receives a jury duty notice from New York County and cannot make the dates assigned because he or she is scheduled for a class, clerkship, or elective, should call the number provided on the jury notice, explain that he or she is a medical student, and offer another two-week period to serve. The student may be asked to go to the court clerk to discuss the situation in person. There is no guarantee that students will be allowed to postpone jury service, but one’s willingness to make oneself available during the next break or vacation may aid the request. Students who repeatedly postpone jury service, eventually will be required to serve, regardless of their academic schedule. Students should complete their jury service if they are not scheduled for class during the dates on their original jury summons.

Students who receive a notice for Grand Jury service or from a jurisdiction other than New York County should contact the Medical College Registrar as soon as they receive the jury notice.

G. Administering the Attendance Policy

The request for permission to be absent is to be given first to the course director, and, in instances where indicated by the type and/or duration of the absence, to the Associate Dean (Academic Affairs) or the Associate Dean (Student Affairs). Faculty members who teach in a course or clerkship must notify the course/clerkship director if a student is absent from a required session. If there is an issue with resolving an absence or with the process for making up missed course work which is not resolved with the course director, the student may confer with the Associate Dean (Academic Affairs). In the case where the appropriate individuals to be notified are not available in a timely fashion, are on vacation, or are away from the Medical College for other professional duties, the student should notify the Office of Academic Affairs in writing.

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