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Medical Is this a possible IA?

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Oct 14, 2011
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Hey, so I guess I'm in a slightly weird-ish predicament. So currently I'm on a voluntary leave of absence, returning to university this summer (so next week). I've been looking into potential red flags or other things that could hurt my future med school application, and thought of something that might affect me. Hopefully I'm just being paranoid, and plan to contact my school for clarification. However, I just want to see how others on here respond.

So during my leave, I came back to campus for a night to visit some friends. I got way too intoxicated and was sent to the hospital, got sent to the Drug and Alcohol Office, blah blah. I was never charged with anything, I was told it was purely out of my own safety and not an IA. Even if it was, I think I could explain this away. HOWEVER what happened afterwards worries me.

About a month later, I was expecting to receive a decision regarding my return from leave. I had been provisionally approved, but needed final permission before being let back in. Because I was technically returning a semester early, my university said that it had every right to deny my request to return, due to it being less than the typical minimum two-semester leave. I was admittedly quite surprised to hear I was denied, so I went to my college's office to speak with some advisors. It was during this meeting that I found out that the alcohol incident AND an incident that happened at the Alcohol Office affected my return. In the report detailing why I wasn't let back in, there were some reports of my behavior, specifically regarding my demeanor. I was told that some have described me as "cold, indignant, nonresponsive, abusive, etc". Now I was astounded by these accusations and took them as pure misjudgments of my character. Have I been a bit rude or impatient at times? Sure, who hasn't. But I'm worried that if these statements were accessible to these advisors, that there must be some paper trail detailing info about me. If these get out to MD schools, I would expect these to be a huge detriment, as I highly doubt those traits make a good doctor. I was never called to Office of Student Conduct, nor was any official warning or allegations issued against me. Maybe I'm just paranoid. Does anyone have any idea if this could possibly make it to my admissions file?
If you aren't being allowed to return to "campus," there has to be a record in the university of that decision, so yes, you may need to consider it a suspension and thus an institutional action. Check your student handbook and connect with the Dean of Students.
 

lord999

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Depends on the school. We have had applications with Stanford's notations and documentation for those incidents as they have a separate substance office (literally called the APE for Alcohol Policy and Education) that deals with the matter separate than Student Services. I have no idea what your school's relationship with that office and that of the Registrar is, but it probably behooves you to find out. Also, if you are on a voluntary leave of absence due to another administrative decision, it is likely on file with Student Conduct or the Registrar.
 
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I'm confused. The medical illness is not substance use related, it was diagnosed as adjustment disorder with general anxiety and mild depressive symptoms. I barely drink/smoke and my trip to the ER after blacking out was a one-time incident that unfortunately happened. I've never been clinically admitted to any mental health or other medical facilities. The only help I needed was seeing a therapist biweekly and meds prescribed by a psychiatrist (so nothing major) for anxiety/mild depressive issues. I have an explanation for the gap between freshman and sophomore years that does not disclose my medical issues in extreme detail. Why would the State Board (what state board) have been contacted? The only intervention I received was one or two meetings with the alcohol office, which they said were strictly protocol.
What I'm perceiving is your school found out about your behavior and became very alarmed.

I surmise that while you may indeed be a very nice person when sober, you weren't when you were drunk.

This occurred when you were a sophomore? If so it might not be lethal.
 

lord999

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Yes, and actually I was sober when the incident occurred haha.(I was just throwing up when drunk and was discharged like two hours later after waking up). What exactly happened is that during the alcohol meeting I told them that although I understood the importance of the meeting and would go to the follow up appointment, I thought the allegations against me weren't serious and that I had no substance abuse issues. I didn't say this in an overly harsh way, and tried to be respectful. However they took this to mean that I was dismissing what had happened and that I didn't care. Which isn't true, it's just that of all the mistakes I've made I think that getting black out ONE TIME wasn't a huge deal. They took this defensively, and started making (untrue) allegations about the incident and my past. I found this to be incredibly insulting, and seeing that the meeting was almost over, I abruptly got up and left, telling them that I was willing to discuss the incident (which I did) but was not willing to sit back and let them tell lies to my face and misconstrue my earlier statements. Immediately after walking out I realized I was in the wrong, and emailed them apologizing and saying that I'd be willing to set up another meeting to make amends and explain myself. They never responded. So yeah, I was being super immature, but that's the extent of it all. I was 19 and already had a hard enough time adjusting from a sheltered childhood in the middle of nowhere to living on my own in a major city going to an elite university. My understanding is that my university was just looking for ANY reason to deny my request. I reapplied to return just a few months later for the following semester and was approved with no issue at all. Am I a bad person? I don't think so. Did I just get a bit defensive which seemed to resemble aggression? Maybe so. I was just a kid (and still am) who lacked any sort of support or help for so long. I’ve made tremendous progress regarding some related unresolved childhood issues, so this is no longer as much of an issue, even my clinician didn't think it was a big deal after explaining the situation. But I know that I must face the repercussions. I'm just trying to see if this is even fixable; otherwise I'll drop pre-med entirely and try to find another career *sigh* :(
When you apply for a license, there is a general background check that is sent to each school, inclusive of mental health issues, and they are probably going to know due to the gap year involved. If you disclose that you had those issues even if clinically addressed, the State Board will turn back to you to prove that the clinical matter is under control or resolved. It is not necessarily detailed, but it is evaluated. It is not a problematic process. If you do not disclose and the Board finds out through the discovery, then it is more adversarial and you probably get evaluated. If you apply for any position even as a rotation that has the federal side background check, it will definitely come up.

Based on what you wrote, you did get an intervention record with the University office, and honestly, if that record does transmit with the background, it does not make you look very good. This is quite "fixable" by living well, but you have to own it and explain it at the time of your application or your licensure. I would probably think about hiring a professional services lawyer (the ones that deal with licensing) to take a review of your record as you apply for these milestones. It is not damning, but it is something that you are going to have to have some nuanced arguments.
 
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Does this pertain to all State Boards? Because I read somewhere that states vastly differ when it comes to reporting mental health. If at the time of licensing this is not a current issue (which I highly doubt it will be), for certain states is it possible not to disclose this information?

With regards to actually getting admitted to MD schools, is this something I could possibly come back from? No professional I've seen thinks this is indicative of any lifelong debilitating illness. I just think the certain circumstances that occurred and not having received help at the time led to a culmination of symptoms that messed things up. I understand that med schools tend to break even the healthiest of students. However, even with a few months of counseling, I've made great progress, which leads me to believe that my mental health is (almost) entirely manageable and if treated correctly shouldn't interfere with my life.

If the rest of my app is strong (3.8+, Ivy undergrad, 515+ MCAT, clinical experience, research, etc.), could a comeback maybe save my chances? I know it's a big IF I'll even be able to do well the rest of undergrad/gap years. I just want to have some sort of idea this early in undergrad if a mid-tier MD school is even a remote possibility. I don't want to waste the next few years working towards something when I never stood a chance in the first place.
Long stretches of academic excellence will allay any Adcom fears of mental health issues. A single IA at this point in time isn't always lethal.
 

lord999

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I usually use an example from my early practice days on withholding information on substance abuse. This physician had an Ivy League (Penn) undergraduate and MCP now Drexel graduate, but more or less had the worst possible undergraduate experience in the world and it persisted into her medical training and practice without treatment.


She managed to recover herself (a long, hard journey) and now is back in practice after rehabilitation and the retaking of her boards (she had to retake USMLE 20 years later):

Reason I remember that one as it as lectured to us harshly when filling out our own licensing paperwork to not hide that information or else when writing up our own histories (this was still in the days when you wrote a paper application to prove identity and authorization). This is one of the most extreme examples I can think of, and nowhere, no how are you anywhere near that level, and this physician recovered her license and has resumed a competent practice. Compared with that, this is just an episode, you can definitely recover from this but you have to be more cognizant.

I think you will be fine if you can own this and keep the therapeutic relationship up. That said, you do recognize that your decision-making at that meeting does not put you in a good light, and you have to change. Academic excellence is one leg, but you should find yourself in a holistic state of good mental health and a thoughtful respect for authority (because you never know when it comes up later). I wish you well, but also, there are far, far worse examples out there who have managed successful turnarounds. I just hope no one else has to go through that sort of extreme reinvention.
 
Oct 14, 2011
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I'm definitely not as well versed on the undergraduate policies to readmitting someone who took voluntary leave. There has to be some documentation granting you voluntary leave on conditions to return to school, and this hearing probably has something to do with concern about fulfilling those conditions. It sounds like there is no sanction and that the student conduct group/team/panel was trying to determine the veracity of the stories. Unless they presented you with some hard evidence, it breaks down in my opinion to a hearsay argument and they're trying to gauge whether you could be a danger to yourself or other students. We're all speculating and who knows what they wanted. At any rate, I would check in with your Dean of Students and get clarification on what actually happened, why it happened, and what documentation exists (and get copies). You have rights with FERPA to know if this incident or conversation was documented and how it could be disclosed.
 
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