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Students with Disabilities

Medical students with disabilities or suspected disabilities should contact Glenda H. Shoop, PhD, MEd, in the Office of Medical Education, as the first point of contact for confidential advice and guidance.

Glenda H. Shoop, PhD, MEd
Director, Curriculum Design and Evaluation
Office of Medical Education
Hinman Box 7005, Remsen 305
Glenda.H.Shoop@Dartmouth.edu
(603) 650-1214

If a student believes that he or she has experienced discrimination on the basis of a disability, that individual is urged to contact Dr. Shoop in addition to the resources listed in the section on Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Summary

Students Rights & Responsibilities

All students with disabilities should be familiar with the detailed policies and procedures described throughout this section of the Handbook and on the Learning Services webpage. Some of the most fundamental information, however, is highlighted below.

Qualified students with disabilities have a right to:

Qualified students with disabilities have a responsibility to:

Basic Disability Information

The Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended, building on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, mandates that no qualified person with a disability shall, solely on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives or benefits from federal financial assistance. That means otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities are entitled to equal treatment at almost all institutions of higher education in the US, and to reasonable accommodation if needed to facilitate access. Geisel School of Medicine does not discriminate against students with disabilities.

To better understand the terms "qualified person" and "otherwise qualified students", students should read the Essential Standards for Matriculation, Promotion, and Graduation, including the Standards for Capacity. This document can be obtained upon request from Dr. Shoop, or viewed on the learning services website.

The curriculum, as established by the faculty, represents a core curriculum essential to all physicians. Therefore, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth expects that each student admitted will be capable of completing the full curriculum of required courses, clerkships, and electives under the established School policies, and to function in a reasonably independent manner. We believe that we have a responsibility both to our students and to society; and the Essential Standards describe the abilities and competencies that all students must demonstrate, with or without accommodation.

Briefly, Geisel students (and applicants) must have significant capacities in five categories:

A candidate for the MD degree must then demonstrate adequate mastery in a number of disciplines represented by our curriculum in order to progress and graduate. Acceptable levels of mastery are required in six general competency areas:

Qualified students with documented disabilities are readily provided with reasonable accommodations at Geisel, and those accommodations sometimes involve an intermediary or an auxiliary aid. However, no disability can be reasonably accommodated at Geisel with an auxiliary aid or intermediary that provides cognitive support or medical knowledge, substitutes for essential skills, or supplements clinical or ethical judgment. That is to say, accommodations cannot eliminate essential program elements.

Committee on Students with Disabilities

The Committee on Students with Disabilities (CSD) serves as a faculty advisory committee regarding student disability issues. The CSD provides the foundation to interact in an informed and accountable fashion with those in charge of the educational mission at Geisel, and it supports the goal of equal access for all qualified students with disabilities (SWDs).

The Chair of the CSD is a faculty member with understanding of disability issues in a medical school setting. The Committee also includes representation from the clinical faculty, the basic science faculty, Dartmouth Counsel, the undergraduate Office for Equal Access, and Geisel Admissions. At least three regular members must be present for a binding decision to be reached by the Committee. (Other Dartmouth/Geisel faculty or administrators may be called in to meetings on a consultation basis.) Regular members may not have grading responsibilities for Geisel students, and they are expected to recuse themselves from decision-making should there be any conflict of interest with a particular student.

A wide variety of disability concerns may be discussed by the CSD, however its primary functions are as follows:

  1. The CSD considers summary aspects of the documentation provided by all students with disabilities, and helps to foresee potential challenges these students might face. The Committee then offers thoughts on creating equal opportunities for these individuals through accommodation. The Committee may also make suggestions for students/faculty that do not necessarily constitute accommodation per se.
  2. CSD helps to insure that essential aspects of the curriculum - as well as the safety of students, faculty, staff, and patients - are taken into adequate consideration in the accommodation process.
  3. The CSD formally recognizes the disability status of students, and it gives final approval for all accommodation plans.
  4. The CSD helps to resolve any student disability issues at, including student or faculty appeals. And it approves substantive changes in the policies and procedures used by Geisel.

Accommodations

Our goal at Geisel is to provide equal opportunity without undermining the integrity of any course, clerkship, or program.

Colleges and universities are required to provide equal access, through reasonable accommodation, for qualified students with disabilities. "Reasonable" is individually determined after a student requests accommodation.

Qualifying
A student must self-disclose and declare the disability (or suspected disability) in writing, and request accommodation. Glenda H. Shoop, PhD, MEd, is the first point of contact. The student is also responsible for obtaining a thorough written evaluation from an appropriate professional, documenting the presence, extent, and ramifications of the disability. In addition, the documentation should explain what specific types of accommodation the evaluator believes might be most helpful in offsetting the effects of the disability to an acceptable extent (in a medical school environment if possible).

Before the student meets with an evaluator, the student must obtain the evaluation guidelines and forms by referring to the documentation guidelines or by contacting Dr Shoop. All documentation must conform to these guidelines.

The student must obtain the evaluation at his/her own expense, and arrange to have the evaluation form and all supporting documentation forwarded to Dr. Shoop. An evaluation performed more than three years before may not be acceptable, and there are instances in which an evaluation must have been completed within a few months or even weeks. If an evaluation has already been conducted in the past, it will be determined in the document review process if the evaluation is recent enough.

After receiving acceptable documentation, the documents will be reviewed and the findings and recommendations will be discussed with the student, and a plan will be proposed. The plan will be presented along with the information to the CSD. The CSD will review the documentation and consider the student's requests. The CSD will approve a plan for accommodating the student. Temporary accommodations may be given until the CSD is able to meet and consider a student's requests.

If the CSD finds that the documentation provided does not meet its established standards, or does not provide enough useful information in any area, additional information will be requested from the evaluator. If further evaluation is required, it remains the student's responsibility to arrange for that evaluation, at his or her expense.

Securing Specific Accommodations
When a disability has been acknowledged and a specific accommodation plan is approved by the CSD, the plan will be enacted. The student will be given a signed form outlining the approved accommodation(s). The student may then share a copy of this form with individual course and/or clerkship directors, or with other staff who have relevant responsibilities. Sharing this information is typically at the discretion of the student, and is his or her responsibility in order to arrange for accommodations. There may, however, be occasions in which Dr. Shoop speaks directly with faculty or other administrators, on a need-to-know basis, about a student's functional limitations and/or approved accommodations (see section on Confidentiality).

A student is not entitled to accommodation in any course, clerkship, or activity if the form is not presented well before specific accommodations are needed. Course/clerkship directors provide approved accommodations to all students who have shown their forms, as long as the forms are presented in a timely fashion. (Presenting the form as early as possible is recommended; individual clerkships may have deadlines.) If a student's accommodation plan includes assistive devices or extensive supplemental aid, significant additional time may be required to make arrangements, which may delay some portion of the curriculum. Dr. Shoop will help to make those arrangements.

Appeals
Students are welcome to talk with Dr. Shoop at any time about a perceived need to modify accommodations. However, any student who remains dissatisfied with his or her accommodations, as approved by the CSD, may make a formal appeal.

The student should first appeal to the CSD itself. The student should explain in a letter why he or she believes the prior decision was unfair or inadequate, and should include any available corroborating information with the letter. Dr. Shoop will accept the letter and schedule a meeting of the CSD or a subcommittee as soon as possible, typically within two weeks. The student should be prepared to meet with the committee or subcommittee to answer questions.

If a student disagrees with the CSD's decision after an appeal has been presented, that student may make a final appeal to the Dean of the Medical School. The student should submit a letter directly to the Dean's Office, with a copy to Dr. Shoop. The letter should describe the situation and indicate why the CSD's decision does not appear to be fair or adequate. The Dean may wish to meet with the student to discuss the issues. The Dean may also consult with other professionals for information and perspective. The Dean's decision is final and will generally be conveyed within three weeks of receiving the appeal letter.

Disability & Confidentiality

Disability information is considered private. Faculty members, with the exception of those on the CSD, do not have the right to access students' diagnostic information. Ordinarily, faculty members and other relevant staff need only know the accommodations that are deemed necessary to provide an equal opportunity for students.

There are times, however, when certain faculty members and/or administrators may also have a legitimate educational need to know about a student's functional limitations. In such cases, the Dr. Shoop may speak directly with those individuals to ensure appropriate planning, as well as safety for patients, students, and staff. Faculty and staff may also speak among themselves as necessary to provide appropriate support and safety.

Staff members to whom accommodation forms are presented may copy these forms for their records, but they should take care to keep the information private. The accommodation information conveyed on the forms should be communicated only to faculty and/or staff who have an educational interest (for instance, those who are involved in providing the accommodations, or those who are responsible for the educational environment). If a faculty member or a student has any questions about specific accommodations, he/she may contact Dr. Shoop directly. All documentation and official correspondence concerning a student's disability are kept in a separate, confidential file in the Office for Medical Education.

Clinical faculty (e.g. clerkship directors) who have occasion to write student evaluations at the end of clerkships must be careful not to breach the confidentiality afforded students with disabilities. Written evaluations, which may be excerpted in the Dean's Letter or seen by others outside the Geisel community, should not mention disabilities or accommodations for disabilities in any way. Once a student has been approved for specific accommodations by CSD, and has subsequently received those accommodations, that student should be held to the same essential performance standards as all other students. Therefore, clinical faculty should focus strictly on the student's performance in all these evaluations. With regard to letters of reference solicited by students, faculty members may mention a disability IF the student gives prior permission for them to do so.

The Geisel School of Medicine does not notify potential residency programs or other employers about student disabilities without specific permission from the student. Since students with disabilities, once accommodated, are held to the same standards as other students, we do not make notation of any kind on the transcript or in the official Dean's letter (MSPE).

Emergency Evacuation

Those students with concerns about evacuating in the case of an emergency should contact Dr. Shoop to develop a personal plan for safety. This also pertains to students who have not needed to request accommodations for their impairment or disability, but who believe a fire or other emergency might necessitate special assistance. Dartmouth's comprehensive emergency plan is located here.

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