Code of Professional Conduct

I. Preamble

From earliest times, the medical profession has been held in the highest esteem because of the unique covenant of honor and integrity that binds physicians to their patients, teachers, and communities. In beginning our journey as members of this profession, the students of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo recognize the need to embrace and actively support the timeless ethics and values associated with the medical community. Although the primary goal of medical education is to produce competent physicians, our mission as students is much greater. In the tradition of maintaining standards of ethical behavior in medicine, this document serves to affirm and uphold the values that we accept as central to our role as future physicians. In so doing, we recognize the unique privilege of our profession as well as the associated responsibilities.

The Code of Professional Conduct is concerned with our role in the lives of our patients, our colleagues, and our society at large. The development of a personal ethic began early in our lives, is refined during our medical school and postgraduate training, and will continue throughout our lives as medical professionals. With this document we affirm our personal commitment to honesty and integrity in our professional lives. In addition, we must uphold this commitment by encouraging honesty and integrity in our peers.

With these goals in mind, the Code of Professional Conduct is designed not to dictate behavior, but to establish a set of minimum expectations. It provides a framework for the medical student community to correct breaches of conduct in a non-punitive manner in order to promote the development of professional ethics. At the very least, the Code provides a reminder to all of us that we have entered a profession in which we have the power to affect the lives of many - a power that must be treasured, respected, and never abused.

II. Professional Conduct

Establishing and maintaining the highest concepts of honor and personal integrity during medical school are critical to our training as physicians. We are aware that honor and integrity are essential to the medical profession, and we will actively support these concepts. It is our responsibility to take definite measures to terminate unethical actions on the part of a colleague by first addressing concerns with our peers or, if necessary, by reporting such actions to the Professional Conduct Committee. The following outlines the minimum standards of behavior expected of medical students at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

A. Respect For Patients

First among the medical student's professional duties is a responsibility to the patient. Utmost care must be taken to ensure respect and confidentiality for all patients whom the student encounters.

i. Safety and Modesty

Students should abide by the principle, “First, do no harm." Medical students should demonstrate respect for their patients through language and actions. In all patient encounters, medical students should use non-threatening, non-sexual, and non-judgmental language and behavior. Medical students should not hesitate to obtain a consultation when in doubt, when requested by the patient or family, and when otherwise appropriate. Relationships formed with the patients and their families should be non-sexual and appropriate. A patient's privacy and modesty should be maintained as much as possible during history taking, physical examinations, and any other contact. Students should consider the cultural sensitivities of their most conservative potential patients and present themselves in a manner that will earn their respect, ensure their trust and make them feel comfortable.

ii. Honesty

Honesty is essential in the medical student's relationship with a patient. It is important to be truthful with patients and not intentionally mislead or give false information. Medical students are encouraged to ask their supervising physicians for a consultation when they feel uncomfortable answering patient questions or when they do not have the information requested. While honesty is important, the medical student should avoid disclosing information to the patient that only the patient's physician should reveal.

iii. Confidentiality

Great care should be taken at all times to maintain the confidentiality of patient information. Medical and/or personal information about the patient should be shared only with health professionals directly involved in the patient's care. To avoid an accidental breach in confidentiality, medical students should not discuss patient care in public areas, including, but not limited to, hospital elevators, cafeterias, lounges, and hallways. It is also important to safeguard medical records and notes.

B. Written Communication

It is crucial to maintain the integrity of medical records and documents. The written medical record is not only important in effective patient care and communication between health care providers, but it is also a legal document and available to the patient for review. As such, all written medical documents, including electronic correspondence, pertaining to patients and their care must be legible, truthful, complete, and accurate to the best of students' knowledge and ability. Patient records should not contain offensive or judgmental statements.

C. Verbal Communication

In the clinical setting, medical information about patients is often communicated verbally. Information that medical students communicate verbally to physicians, classmates, and other health care providers may influence patient care and the learning process. Verbal communication regarding a patient should be neither offensive nor judgmental. It is crucial to maintain the integrity of patients' medical information by reporting only accurate information, information about which the student has direct knowledge, and all pertinent information of which the student is aware, all to the best of the student's ability.

D. Respect For Faculty, Staff, Colleagues, And Hospital Personnel

Medical students should exhibit respect for faculty, staff, colleagues, and others, including, but not limited to, hospital personnel, guests, and members of the general public. This respect can be demonstrated by prompt execution of reasonable instructions and by deference to those with superior knowledge, experience, or capabilities. Students in disagreement with a faculty member should express their views in a calm, respectful, and mature manner. In addition, students should maintain an even disposition, display a judicious use of others' time, and handle private information maturely. If able, students should attend all required classes or sessions. Students are expected to arrive at the scheduled time for all required courses, sessions, clinical rotations, and other mandatory academic obligations. In addition, students should avoid behavior that is disruptive to their classmates and to the learning environment.

E. Respect For Hospital Property

Medical students must abide by all hospital and institutional policies during their clinical experiences and training. Hospital property, including equipment and medications, are for patient care and will not be for the student's personal use. Students should show respect for the tools and equipment owned by the hospital by preventing damage or misuse.

F. Prevention Of Substance Abuse

The Professional Conduct Committee recognizes that the use of chemical substances and alcohol occur. Medical students should be careful of the dangers associated with the use of these substances. In situations where they may be viewed as representatives of the university, students should not allow their actions to reflect negatively upon the university or upon their profession. If the use of chemical substances or alcohol occurs in an unlawful, inappropriate or excessive manner, or if such use could potentially affect patient care or academic performance and responsibilities, intervention and rehabilitation will be required. Self-referral and peer-referral to the PCC are encouraged. Our goals are to recognize chemical dependency and assist impaired students to recovery by constructing a rehabilitation program with the assistance of a professional so that they can return to the safe practice of medicine.

III. Academic Standards

Since medical education consists of both scholarly and clinical experiences, it is important to consider the actions of future physicians in both realms. As students we are obligated to strive to develop medical knowledge and skills to the best of our ability, realizing that the health and lives of the persons committed to our charge will depend on that knowledge and skill. We should recognize the importance of all aspects of medical education that might enrich our knowledge of the human body and mind. The following are some specific, but not exhaustive, examples of expected conduct that uphold the principle and spirit of the Code.

A. Respect For Cadavers

The students understand and appreciate the sacrifice of the individuals who provided their bodies for the benefit of our learning. These donations will be treated with the greatest respect. Accordingly, there will be no unauthorized photography or guests in the laboratory, and no desecration of human remains.

B. Clinical Work

Recognizing the special trust between patient and physician, students have a responsibility to ensure accurate representation of patients' medical status, lab results, and medical records.

C. Examinations

  1. Because professors and proctors are expected to treat students respectfully, students must demonstrate honor and integrity during exams.
  2. The students understand that examinations are solely to reflect each student's individual achievement. Cheating or unauthorized collaboration during examinations is unethical.
  3. The students understand that it is important to arrive before the scheduled examination time to minimize disruption.
  4. During exams, professors, proctors, and students have an obligation to maintain a non-disruptive atmosphere.

D. Classroom Behavior

Students will make every effort to arrive on time and to limit classroom disruption in order to maintain an environment conducive to learning.

E. Other Academic Work

  1. Medical students owe a debt of fealty to the scientists, doctors, and patients who have shared their knowledge and experience for our learning. Therefore, students have a responsibility not to misrepresent the work of others as their own.
  2. During medical training, students will be provided with instructional material that will greatly aid their learning. They will make every effort to protect instructional material out of respect for their peers and the classmates who will follow.

F. Academic Records

It is unethical to falsify documents of any kind. Falsification of academic records devalues medical education.

IV. Social Behavior

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences intends not only to provide its students with the knowledge they need to succeed as physicians, but also strives to develop the character of each student so as to graduate physicians who possess interpersonal qualities essential in the health care profession. It is thus imperative that the medical school community uphold the highest standards of integrity among its members, thereby fostering a safe and comfortable learning environment. Students, faculty, and staff should recognize the right of all individuals to be treated with respect without regard to race, age, gender, disability, national origin, position, religion, or sexual orientation. It is unethical for members of the school community to show disrespect for an individual, whether in behavior or in speech, because of such differences.

A. Harassment

Harassment creates a hostile or intimidating environment that interferes significantly with an individual's work or adversely affects an individual's living conditions. Such an atmosphere can be created by verbal, written, or physical conduct.

i. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome acts of a sexual nature including sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct, including written communications, of an intimidating, hostile or offensive nature, or action taken in retaliation for the reporting of such behavior. This applies to all faculty, staff, administrators, and students on the university grounds or at university-affiliated functions. Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal laws and university regulations.

ii. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment constitutes unwelcome physical contact or verbal threats, menacing or otherwise.

B. Respect For Diversity

In order to maintain a safe and comfortable learning environment, students will show respect for the diversity of their colleagues and will avoid disparaging remarks or actions in regard to a person's race, age, gender, disability, national origin, position, religion, or sexual orientation.

C. Respect For Laws, Policies, And Regulations

Students are expected to recognize that laws are established for the benefit of society as a whole. Specific rules, policies, and regulations have been established for the benefit of the community of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Laws, policies, and regulations at the university, local, state, and federal levels are not to be disregarded or violated. Students who feel that the policies, procedures, or regulations of the school require modification are encouraged to suggest improvements to the appropriate administrative, faculty, or student offices.

D. Social Media

Social media can play a valuable role in both the personal and professional lives of medical students. However, in using this ever-evolving technology, individuals are seen as representatives of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the medical profession as a whole. Students must uphold the Code in both their online and physical actions.

Students must consider how they are representing themselves, the school, and the profession whether posting to official university or hospital social media pages or their own personal sites. When forwarding or re-posting content found elsewhere, students should use appropriate citations and have a responsibility not to misrepresent the work of others.

V. Enforcement

The goal of the Code is to set basic common ideals that are felt to best represent the beliefs of the medical school community. Any dispute that may arise regarding a breach of these ideals should be addressed in an informal forum between the dissenting parties before any report is made to the Professional Conduct Committee. If these measures fail, report to the PCC is warranted.

A. The Committee

The Professional Conduct Committee will consist of three voting representatives of each of the four classes who will be elected by their peers. Representatives will be elected during their first year and will serve for the duration of their medical education. In the event that a representative is unable or unwilling to continue to serve, elections will be held to fill their place with a new representative from their original class year. The Chairperson will be a representative from the second year class who has served at least one semester on the PCC, elected by the student representatives.

The Committee will also contain one voting faculty representative and one alternate for each Phase I and Phase II. A non-voting administrative representative will also participate in hearings. All faculty representatives will be appointed by the Senior Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs, in consultation with the Chair of the PCC.

B. Discussion And Mediation

Any student, faculty member, or administrator of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo who feels a member of the medical school community has violated the Code is encouraged to first discuss the matter informally with the other party. The Professional Conduct Committee will provide a mediation session with an uninvolved third party if requested.

C. Filing A Report

If the issue cannot be satisfactorily resolved at an informal level, a signed report may be filed with any member of the PCC in a sealed envelope or by email to A report should include a description of the complaint with all pertinent documentation, channels already pursued to resolve the issue, and the results of previous actions. A report should be filed as soon as possible following the discovery of alleged misconduct so that all information pertinent to the report may be collected in a timely fashion. All communication with the PCC will be kept strictly confidential.

D. Investigation

Upon receipt of a report of alleged misconduct, an investigating committee, composed of at least two (2) committee members will collect facts relevant to the investigation. Any members with actual or perceived conflict of interest, including members of the PCC of the same class years of the alleged offender and the complainant, will recuse themselves from any investigation or hearing pertaining to the case. During the investigative stage the accused student will be informed of the identity of the parties involved and the nature of the charges. All relevant information gathered will be compiled in writing and submitted to the larger committee, and to the accused, for their review prior to the hearing.

E. Rights

Before a meeting of the PCC may be called, the Code provides that any person accused of a violation will have the following rights:

  1. To be presented with a written summation of the report against him or her.
  2. To be given reasonable notice of and reasonable time to prepare for a hearing before the Committee.
  3. To know the identity of his/her accuser(s).
  4. To be informed of the nature of the evidence to be used against him/her.
  5. To refuse to give any statement which he/she feels may incriminate him/her during the investigation or trial.
  6. To have all information relating to the investigation and hearing kept confidential.
  7. To receive a fair hearing.

F. Meeting Of The Committee

A hearing will commence following the conclusion of the investigative phase. A chairperson for the Committee will be selected when the meeting commences and will be responsible for preparing the written report to the Student Progress Committee.

First, all written information regarding the alleged offense should be distributed and reviewed in advance. Next, the alleged offender and the complainant will be separately invited into the room and each will have the opportunity to present information on his/her own behalf. Both the complainant and accused may choose to be accompanied by a non-legal advocate. An advocate may provide information in support of an individual and may be asked questions by the Committee. Members of the Committee may ask questions of the involved individuals at any time.

After all of the relevant information has been presented, the panel will excuse the concerned parties and will make its decision in determining the question of responsibility and, if responsible for a conduct violation, the severity of sanction(s). If the accused is not present at the hearing, the Committee reserves the right to make decisions in absentia. A simple majority of Committee members must be in favor of all decisions. A majority recommendation will be made to the Student Progress Committee. If a minority opinion exists, a minority recommendation may also be filed.

At the conclusion of the meeting the chairperson is responsible for collecting all confidential documents from the members of the Committee and other involved parties in order to maintain confidentiality.

Following the hearing it is inappropriate for any faculty member or student to approach committee members or the student involved regarding any information covered at the hearing. Any breach of confidentiality will be regarded as a serious offense.

G. Committee Recommendation

The Code attempts to correct student breaches of professional conduct to ensure that further breaches do not occur and to provide rehabilitation and guidance as needed. Confidential recommendations will be made to the Student Progress Committee by the Committee and may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Oral or Written Admonition
    A statement that a minimum standard of conduct has been violated.
  2. Written Warning
    Notification that repetition of a specific behavior will result in more severe disciplinary action(s).
  3. Academic Reprimand
    A letter to be placed in a student's file, or failure of an exam or course.
  4. Probation
    Exclusion from participation in University activities and privileges for a stated period of time, or permission to continue in University activities under specified conditions.
  5. Restitution
    Reimbursement for damages to be paid within one (1) week of next loan disbursement date.
  6. Suspension
    Immediate exclusion from all classes, activities and academic buildings for a specified period of time.
  7. Expulsion
    Immediate dismissal from the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

H. Appeal

A student found responsible of a conduct violation may make a request to appeal to the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Curriculum or the Senior Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs.

VI. Changes To The Code

A. Approval

This Code will be accepted by a two-thirds majority of the votes received from the members of all four classes. In the first academic year that the code is active [2000-2001], two members from each class will be elected for the duration of their education, except for the first year representatives, who will be elected for only one term.

B. Amendments

All sections of the Code will be subject to the possibility of amendment through a voting process to be held no more often than once per academic year. As with the approval process, changes to the Code will be accepted following the consensus of a two-thirds majority of the votes received from members of all four classes.