Going to Take the USMLE Step Exams? Beware of Actions That Can Be Called “Irregular Behavior”-Part 1
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
If you are a medical student in or coming to the United States, you are familiar with the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step examinations. Passing these examinations is required to become licensed in the U.S. and to matching for desired U.S. residency programs. For some foreign medical schools, passing the USMLE Step exams is required to actually graduate and received a medical degree.
This is Part 1 of a two part blog.
Violation of the Technicalities in the USMLE Handbook May Lead to a Charge of Irregular Behavior.
Although the Step examinations themselves are detailed and tough, sometimes the rules and policies concerning administration of the exams is what causes a career-ending problem for the applicant. We often are retained to represent candidates for the examinations who have received notice from the USMLE that they are being investigated or charged with “irregular behavior.” To me the term “irregular behavior” is merely a euphemism for “cheating” or “attempting to gain an unfair advantage.”
Consequences Can Be Severe.
If a person is found to have committed “irregular behavior,” her or his transcript of USMLE scores is stamped with the words “Irregular Behavior” and usually a letter explaining that “irregular behavior” is sent with it. The reporting of USMLE Step exam score will usually be delayed while the investigation and/or hearing is conducted, which may take many months and make you miss important deadlines. Any medical school, residency program, fellowship program or potential employer who receives the transcript of USMLE scores, also receives the foregoing. In many cases this will eliminate you from consideration for the best residency and fellowship programs.
Often the type of conduct that is charged is conduct that is fully acceptable in other professions and is not considered to be a violation of the rules. According to the USMLE, there are many types of conduct that can be termed “irregular behavior.”
Irregular behavior includes any action by applicants, examinees, potential applicants, or others when solicited by an applicant and/or examinee that could compromise the validity, integrity, or security of the USMLE examination process.
The USMLE’s Examples of Irregular Behavior.
On its website, and elsewhere the USMLE provides examples of some of the types of actions that it considers to be “irregular behavior.” These include:
Specific examples of conduct that may be deemed to be irregular behavior include, but are not limited to the following:
1. Seeking, providing, or obtaining unauthorized access to examination materials. This includes, for example, posting a request on a listserv for questions or cases from an examination. A posting as simple and innocuous as “Does anyone have anything on the Houston cases?” can lead to a finding of irregular behavior and serious sanctions. And know that the USMLE has many ways of obtaining the correct identity of the owner of an e-mail address.
2. Providing false information or making false statements on or in connection with application forms, scheduling permits, or other USMLE- related documents. This might include, for example, that you have been enrolled in a different medical school previously or that you are no longer qualified to take an exam.
3. Taking or attempting to take and examination for which you are not eligible.
4. Taking an examination for someone or engaging someone to take an examination for you. This is hardly surprising. This would be considered cheating and fraud anywhere.
In Part 2 of this Blog, I will continue to discuss the types of actions the USMLE considers to be “irregular behavior.”
To learn more, click here to read a prior blog I wrote on the USMLE exam.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Today.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Warning: “Much of the material above is provided by the USMLE. No copyright or other rights are claimed for any material belonging to the USMLE, the NBME or others.”
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