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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Resident and Fellowship Physician Discipline Cases

Resident Physician Discipline Cases and Terminations, Fellowship Physician Discipline Cases and Terminations, Residency and Fellowship Program Grievances, Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program disciplinary Hearings, Residency and Fellowship Program Academic Cases, Medical Students, Medical Interns, Medical Residents, and Medical License Applicants

We have represented medical interns, residents and fellows in academic hearings, grievance proceedings, disputes over adverse performance, decisions to remediate, disciplinary hearings and termination appeals.  We have represented residents, interns and fellows in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and on other matters.

By the time you have graduated from medical school and matched into a residency program or scrambled into one of the few positions left, you’ve invested a lot of your time, your money, and your life into your career.  This is especially true for post-graduate fellows.

It can be devastating when you are threatened with disciplinary measures like remediation, probation, suspension, non-renewal, or dismissal from your program.  Residents struggle everyday with the question: “What can I do if I’ve been dismissed from my program?”  Even some seemingly minor discipline may be reportable to third-parties, which can adversely impact your career.  Dealing with the allegations being made against you can be personally and professionally devastating on top of balancing your already demanding schedule, but there are a number of ways you can protect yourself.  You do have a number of rights as a resident physician or fellow.

In most cases, these disputes have been resolved informally, often through negotiation or mediation. However, occasionally it is necessary that a civil suit be filed against the medical school, university, hospital or institution involved. We will always attempt to resolve such matters as inexpensively as feasible with as little publicity as necessary (or in accordance with our client’s wishes). However, we are not reluctant to sue and litigate the case in federal or state court as appropriate if the circumstances require.

If your program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (known to most of us as the ACGME) (or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) prior to their merger into the Single Accreditation System), they are required to provide a minimum amount of due process to residents and fellows who are subject to disciplinary action.  Each institution’s own policies and your training contract may provide additional rights.  This means that the program must give you the opportunity to present your side of the story, in most cases, to a panel consisting of members of the medical staff and usually other residents who do not have a conflict of interest regarding the matter at issue.

In addition, we routinely deal with state impaired physician and nurse programs such as the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) or the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) in Florida. We routinely represent applicants before the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Credentials Committees of the professional licensing boards, including the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Osteopathic Medicine, Board of Psychology, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Chiropractic Medicine, or other professional boards.

If you are charged with answering an application for a license falsely or incompletely or if you are called before a credentials committee or licensing board to explain certain answers or omissions you made, you should retain a competent, experienced, health care attorney to represent you. If you have prior arrest or convictions (whether expunged or sealed or not), disciplinary action against a prior professional license of any kind, drug or alcohol treatment, mental health conditions, suspensions or expulsions from schools or programs, discipline against a license in another state, unexplained leaves of absence, or a perceived untruthful answer on an application, you should retain qualified counsel to advise you before you answer any further or provide any further information or documentation.

If your application for a license is denied, you will have the right to have a formal evidentiary hearing before state administrative law judge (ALJ). However, even if you are successful at such a hearing, it will be very costly and will delay your admission to your field of practice for many months or longer.

The internal due process appeal and any accompanying negotiation can be very valuable to resolving the dispute, and there are many things to consider in a very short period of time.  Competent representation by an attorney that knows the relevant standards is critical to making the most of those opportunities.  The strategies vary according to each case, and the approach to allegations of unprofessionalism or deficiencies in interpersonal and communication skills can be much different than rebutting issues of medical knowledge or patient care/patient safety.  We have successfully represented a number of residents and fellows across the country in programs large and small, from many different medical specialties, each with their own unique clinical, educational, and accreditation issues.

To read our blogs on graduate medical education law, click here.

Occasionally, when internal due process and negotiation is not enough to resolve the dispute, it is necessary for residents to protect their rights in court.  Our attorneys have not only engaged in this litigation, but they closely monitor how courts around the country assess these cases.  Because residency is a unique hybrid of employment and education, our understanding of the legal strategies that have the best chance of success is particularly important.  Our attorneys practice in both state and federal courts and may be able to represent you anywhere, depending on bar and court rules.

We can also represent you with related matters like rebutting allegations by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) that a resident has violated the match agreement in some way, defending medical students against academic dishonesty charges, and advocating for nursing students and other students in the health professions in academic matters.

To read about our representation of Medical Students, click here.

To read about our representation of medical students, interns and residents and foreign medical graduates on problems with the USMLE, ECFMG and NBME, click here.