Medical students are susceptible to alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness. Given their high levels of stress and access to and knowledge of drugs of abuse, medical students may be at an even greater risk for chemical dependency and mental health issues than the general population.
Recognizing its responsibility for maintaining a high quality of medical education and for promoting the overall well-being of all its members, Alpert Medical School and the Brown University Medical Student Senate have established a Student Health Council that will consist of physician faculty and medical students.
The goals of this council are to:
- Provide peer counseling to students suffering with these issues;
- Provide help in a way that fully protects the rights and privacy of students to receive treatment;
- Assure that students are able to continue their medical education without stigma or penalty;
- Protect patients and others from the harm that impaired students may cause;
- Bring awareness to the prevalence of mental health and substance abuse issues within medical education; and,
- Promote student health and wellness by advocating for improvements in Alpert policies and curriculum.
The council is designed to protect both students and those who find it necessary to report the impairment of a colleague. At no time during the process will the identity of the impaired student be known to anyone other than the council member to whom the report is made, the co-chairpersons and the intervention team if necessary. Other council members will know of the student only by case number. All files will be kept at the Rhode Island Medical Society building or secure online forums, and be accessed only by the faculty and student co-chairpersons. Students referred to Student Health Council will be known by name only by the 4th year chair and the council member providing counseling. If impairment is found to exist, a treatment plan will be offered to the student. The Office of the Dean of Medicine will neither be notified nor involved if the student accepts and follows the treatment plan. Should the student refuse to accept the treatment plan or violate the treatment plan, the Dean's office will be notified.
The Student Health Council also serves as a support to students suffering from depression or mental illness. Students can seek peer counseling from council members or consult with Dr. Christine Montross to obtain a referral for local counseling services.
Any person who has just cause for suspecting that a medical student may be impaired by substance abuse or mental illness can and should enlist the assistance of the council by contacting any of the student or faculty members of the Student Health Council. A strict code of confidentiality is maintained by the Student Health Council. For the 2014-2015 academic year the student council chairs are Katie Brooks and Lianna Karp. Student Health Council Chairs can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who have just cause for suspecting that a physician may be impaired can and should contact the Physicians Health Committee of the Rhode Island Medical Society (401-331-3207).
The administration of the Brown Medical School strongly supports the Student Health Council. The administration's position is one of support and cooperation.
Our desire is that students who are impaired by substance abuse or issues of mental health receive proper counseling and treatment and that they recover. We do not seek to punish such students. Our hope is that all students successfully overcome these challenges and complete their medical education. Our belief is that the Student Health Council offers the best available mechanism to achieve these ends.
Copies of the by-laws of the Student Health Council are available from the Medical Student Senate, the Office of Student Affairs, or the Rhode Island Medical Society.