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What Medical School Probation Means for Students

Though the medical school accreditor says probation is unlikely to affect them, M.D. students worry.

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A page for San Juan Bautista students on the AAMC website says it's up to other schools to decide whether to accept credits; San Juan Bautista students cannot take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination and are ineligible for residencies.

[Get advice from the Medical School Admissions Doctor blog.]

According to the LCME website, four schools are currently on probation: Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, the Health Science Center—San Antonio, the Ponce School of Medicine, and the Commonwealth Medical College.

Francisco Gonzalez-Scarano, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Health Science Center—San Antonio, says probation is relatively tame. The recent news that the school was placed on probation "caught everyone by surprise," Gonzalez-Scarano says, but he notes that no school on probation has ever lost its accreditation.

San Juan Bautista was never placed on probation—Gonzalez-Scarano speculated at bankruptcy being the problem—and two medical schools have closed before losing accreditation: Oral Roberts University in 1990, and the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, which closed in 1921 and reopened in 1928.

Gonzalez-Scarano has heard rumors that probation announcements loom on the horizon for other schools, and that the LCME is under pressure to be tougher in its reviews. Barzansky, the LCME secretary, says her organization only releases information when schools are placed on probation, and "is under no pressure and treats all schools according to its procedures."

Barzansky also notes that schools that have undergone the probation process "have come out better," and some say probation helped them marshal resources to attack difficult problems. But she admits it's not all rosy. "Of course there's going to be frustration," she says. "It's very embarrassing to be held up in front of your peers."

John Byrne, a student at the Health Science Center—San Antonio, said he first heard about his school's probation in a meeting for student leaders an hour before the public announcement.

"My initial reaction was disappointment," he says. "Although it was challenging to hear about the probationary status, I know that the long-term implications will be positive."

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