The University of Otago has confirmed academic misconduct findings against a number of its Trainee Intern medical students in their sixth and final year of medical training.
Following a formal investigation, the University of Otago has written to 15 Christchurch-based Trainee Interns with findings that they have submitted reports that are misleading about their level of commitment while on overseas elective placements.
Those involved are required to resubmit accurate elective reports and to undertake additional work addressing issues of integrity. After this a case-by-case assessment will be made as to whether each student’s overall work across the 12 months of the Trainee Intern year is sufficient for a pass to be awarded.
Electives provide a twelve-week opportunity for sixth-year students to broaden their personal experience before taking up junior doctor roles. These opportunities are largely self-managed and there is flexibility around the activities that can be undertaken. Many students arrange to experience medical practice in overseas clinics and hospitals. No formal teaching or assessment is involved but students are required to submit a report describing their elective activity.
The University considers that the students exercised very poor judgment and acted unethically in doing so. As part of the normal annual process, the MB ChB Board of Censors will now consider whether the students will be able to graduate in December as planned.
Dean of the Otago Medical School Professor Barry Taylor says the University is extremely disappointed that its trust has been seriously broken and that the students involved have breached academic and ethical standards in connection with their overseas electives.
“The majority of our students have diligently completed their electives and reported honestly on them. However a number of students have exhibited very poor judgement in taking varying, but significant, amounts of time away from placement activities to travel and holiday and then not accurately reflecting this in their elective reports. In doing so they have let the School, the public, their colleagues and themselves down badly.
“Now that the misconduct investigation is complete consideration will be given to whether each student has completed sufficient work over the last twelve months to be afforded a sixth year pass. The ethical considerations that arise will also be addressed by the MB ChB Fitness to Practice Committee which can refer individuals to the Medical Council,” he says.
While students fund their own travel and other elective expenses, they receive government funding by way of a training grant paid monthly over the Trainee Intern year. The University has called for the students to make the appropriate repayment of their stipend to the government.The University is also reviewing its own processes to mitigate the possibly of this kind of misconduct from occurring again. The overseas elective placement scheme itself will be reviewed in time for the 2020 electives. The University will also look into any further possible cases if relevant information comes to hand.
“We understand the public disquiet on learning of this breach of trust, and we will take appropriate steps to prevent this happening again.” says Professor Taylor.