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Technical Standards

University of Massachusetts Medical School Technical Standards for Medical School Admission, Continuation and Graduation

The mission of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), School of Medicine is to graduate skilled and effective physicians. The School of Medicine selects applicants who are deemed best qualified to complete the curriculum and are considered most likely to become successful physicians. Applicants are selected for admission based not only on their scholastic achievement and abilities, but also on their intellectual, physical and emotional capacities to meet the standards of the curriculum and to have a successful career in medicine. The faculty of the School of Medicine recognizes that academic competency is essential for success in medical school. Such things as intellectual curiosity, undergraduate grades, and the MCAT examination help to demonstrate academic competency. The UMMS School of Medicine Admissions Committee is instructed to exercise its judgment on behalf of the faculty in selecting the entering class. The committee is asked to consider not only academic ability but also character, integrity, extracurricular achievement, commitment to service, ability to contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge and biomedical research, the likelihood of providing primary care in the commonwealth, serving the health care needs of our underserved communities, and overall suitability for the medical profession based upon information in the application, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits the medical school, requires that the curriculum provides a general professional education, enabling each student to pursue graduate training in a variety of disciplines. Also, one of the missions of the UMMS School of Medicine is to graduate a significant number of generalist physicians. This requires the development of broad knowledge, skills and behaviors, enabling ongoing self-directed learning, further training and delivery of competent medical care. The faculty of the UMMS School of Medicine believe that such a broad based and patient oriented curriculum is best suited for future generalists, specialists and physician investigators. The basic sciences curriculum includes anatomy, biochemistry, histology, pathology, pharmacology and physiology and is designed to establish a core of knowledge necessary for clinical training. The clinical curriculum begins early in the first year and includes diverse experiences in primary care, family medicine and ambulatory patient care. The third and fourth year include in-depth experiences in primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, diagnostic imaging, pathology, emergency medicine, geriatrics and rehabilitation medicine in ambulatory and in-patient settings. These experiences provide a broad basis for the practice of medicine, regardless of the future choice of specialty. Each student is required by the faculty to successfully complete each required course and clinical rotation to graduate.

The following technical standards specify attributes necessary for completing medical school training, enabling each graduate to subsequently enter residency and clinical practice.  These standards describe the essential functions students must meet in order to fulfill the requirements of an undergraduate medical education, and thus, are pre-requisites for entrance, continuation, advancement, retention and graduation from medical school. Deficiencies in meeting these technical standards may jeopardize the student’s academic standing and/or compromise the provision of high quality patient care and, as such, may be grounds for dismissal from the school.

Certain chronic or recurrent illnesses can interfere with safe patient care and may not be compatible with medical practice or training. Any student who is or becomes a carrier of blood borne pathogens [including but not limited to Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, and Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)] must read the addendum and acknowledge the policy statement on blood-borne pathogens found here. Consistent with the policy statement, a student who is a carrier of a blood-borne pathogen will not be permitted to perform some invasive procedures. This will restrict the student’s ability to perform fully in some clinical clerkships and to meet the requirements of some specialties; therefore, the student will possibly be prohibited from future training and practicing in those fields. Other conditions that may lead to a high likelihood of debilitating student illness should also be carefully considered before committing to a clinical career.

Technical Standards
A student must possess aptitude, abilities and skills in five areas:
1) Observation;
2) Communication;
3) Sensory and Motor Coordination;
4) Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities; and
5) Professionalism: Behavioral and Social Attributes.

These are described in detail below. Students must be able to independently perform the described functions.

1. Observation
Students must be able to make accurate observations in both the clinical sciences and basic sciences. Such observations may include, but are not limited to:

  • participation in anatomic dissection of preserved tissues and cadavers,
  • microscopic studies of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states,
  • demonstrations in the classroom or online including slides, films, and videos,
  • discernment of signs of illness, discomfort and emotional state through direct observations of patients,
  • measurements associated with competent use of bedside diagnostic equipment such as, but not limited to, the sphygmomanometer, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope and otoscope, and
  • diagnostic tests.

2. Communication
Students must be able to relate effectively and sensitively with patients and family members of all genders, ages, races, life-styles, sexual orientations, political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Students must be able to convey a sense of compassion, empathy and respect. Students must be able to communicate with faculty, supervisors and other members of the health care team. Communication includes:

  • verbal and nonverbal communication with patients in order to elicit accurate histories,
  • preparation of oral and written presentations about patients’ problems and medical conditions,
  • communication of complex findings, interpretations and recommendations to patients, family members and other members of the health care team,
  • recognition of emotional states such as sadness, worry, agitation and lack of comprehension of physician communication,
  • communication with patients and family members through translators when appropriate,
  • reading and recording observations, assessments and plans legibly in electronic and paper patient records and in other communications with colleagues,
  • maintenance of computer skills to access patient records and medical information, and to record information in patient records, and
  • accurate and timely response to pages, emails, and other communications from other members of the health care team, faculty, administrators, mentors, course directors, deans or educational leaders.

3. Sensory and Motor Coordination or Function
Students must have the gross and fine motor skills required to competently perform and accurately interpret information from the complete physical examination on any patient of all genders, utilizing palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers.

  • This requires the ability to accurately observe and to process visual, auditory, exteroceptive (smell, touch, pain and temperature) and proprioceptive (position, pressure, movement, steriognosis, and vibratory) phenomena.
  • Students must have the ability to handle medical instruments and equipment with precision.
  • Under supervision, a student must respond promptly to medical emergencies and function appropriately as a member of the medical team.
  • Students must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads, long work hours, and be able to stand for several hours at a time.

4. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities
These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, judgment and synthesis. The medical student must possess these intellectual abilities in order to be skilled in clinical reasoning and problem solving. In addition, the medical student is expected to:

  • process important findings from history, physical examination and laboratory data in order to develop a reasoned explanation for patients’ differential diagnoses,
  • comprehend three dimensional and spatial relationships of structures,
  • under supervision, integrate information and develop a cost-effective diagnostic and management plan,
  • deal simultaneously with several problems and/or tasks and properly triage the work at hand,
  • identify and communicate the limits of their knowledge to others when appropriate,
  • assimilate new information from peers, teachers, and the medical literature in formulating diagnoses and plans, and
  • possess good judgment and effective teamwork in patient care, and course assignments.

5. Professionalism: Behavioral and Social Attributes
Students must always conduct themselves with the highest standards of professionalism as expected by patients, peers, faculty and those in the various healthcare professions. Students must act with integrity and honesty in all interactions, both in the classroom and in clinical settings. They must possess those intellectual, ethical, physical and emotional capabilities required to undertake the full curriculum and to achieve the competencies required by the faculty. In addition, the student must consistently demonstrate the capacity for accountability and responsibility expected of a physician.

Consistent with the qualities of professionalism expected of a physician, students who matriculate in the School of Medicine must:

  • demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills,
  • exercise sound judgment,
  • be consistently punctual for all required activities,
  • demonstrate respect for individuals and form effective relationships with patients of all ages, genders, heritages, sexual orientations, cultural and religious backgrounds,
  • demonstrate cultural sensitivity,
  • possess emotional stability in stressful situations,
  • respond to emails, phone calls, pages, etc. in a timely manner,
  • maintain the highest professional standards on social media,
  • assure the confidentiality of patient information,
  • abide by all rules, regulations and policies of the school and clinical training sites, student handbook and honor code,
  • accept constructive feedback from others and take responsibility for actions and make appropriate, positive changes,
  • engage in respectful, timely and effective communication,
  • work effectively, respectfully and professionally as part of educational and healthcare teams, and with peers, supervisors and faculty,
  • demonstrate motivation to learn in all settings,
  • demonstrate empathy and concern for others, and
  • show compassion for patients while maintaining appropriate boundaries for professional relationships.

Students must function effectively under stress and possess adequate endurance to successfully meet their academic and clinical responsibilities. Students must be able to successfully adapt to changing environments and situations demonstrating necessary flexibility. They must learn to function in the setting of patient care and in the face of uncertainties inherent in the practice of medicine. Students must also be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and long work hours.

Maintaining the standards of professionalism is an essential component of patient care and the practice of medicine. Student violations of the standards of professionalism may lead to dismissal from the School of Medicine.

The School’s Technical Standards can also be found online here.

Adopted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Admissions Committee on Dec. 12, 1990.
First revision September 15, 1993; Second revision July 30, 1999; Third revision April 5, 2001; Fourth revision July 9, 2009. Fifth revision October 18, 2017.

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